U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Tribal Energy Program

Environmental Regulatory Agencies

There are several agencies that have developed standards and regulations to address environmental protection issues. The lead agency is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which develops environmental policies to protect the air, land, and water. The EPA uses a process of requiring and reviewing permits to ensure that new or substantially changed generation plants do not cause unacceptable amounts of environmental damage or pollution. The following Web pages and documents were developed by the EPA to help tribes understand the issues and to find out how to interact with the EPA:

The Department of the Interior (DOI) Web site includes explanations of how its different agencies deal with a variety of issues. The Bureau of Indian Affairs deals with the use and protection of Indian lands. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Web site is not currently available, and may not be available for some time. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) handles protection of animals and their habitats. Two key issues are the relationship between the FWS and tribal lands, and permits for projects that could affect threatened or endangered species. Depending on your location and what you are trying to do, other DOI Agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management or the Minerals Management Service may have information of interest.

While the Fish and Wildlife Service is tasked with protecting species and their habitats on land and in the rivers, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages protection and permitting related to marine species. Projects that could affect threatened or endangered marine life need a permit from the NMFS. Note that NMFS permits are required for projects affecting threatened or endangered anadromous fish, such as salmon, that migrate between rivers and the ocean.

The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires environmental impact statements (EISs) for any undertaking that might significantly impact the environment. U.S. government agencies are required to comply with this act in all their dealings. Your tribe or a company or agency you are working with may be required to produce an EIS and have it approved. A good explanation of NEPA and EIS requirements is available on the National Preservation Institute Web site.

A generic term for smaller or mid-sized electricity producing systems is "distributed energy resources" (DER). The Federal Energy Management Program's Environmental Siting Guide explains the processes one must go through to site a DER system. For additional information about connecting to the grid, see Grid Interconnection.

Since tribes have a wide variety of experiences in dealing with regulatory bodies, it is often a good idea for tribes to develop their own codes and standards. See Green Development Codes/Ordinances on the Smart Communities Network Web site for models that you can use if you are considering this.

Finally, the following tribal organizations can offer their experience in dealing with environmental issues: