Working with Outside Organizations and Companies

Tribes have many legal protections, including tribal regulations, federal regulations, and federal land protections. Of course, the tribe is the government on the reservation, with its own regulatory framework and policies and the power to enforce them. These regulations and policies can be friendly, neutral, or non-friendly to renewable energy development.

The tribe has many options in order to carry out its functions. It helps to have some established law — codes, ordinances, and the like — to provide a legal foundation for operations. This is especially critical at the interface between the tribe and other organizations. Having tribal decisions already codified in this manner gives the tribe a clear stance in negotiating, establishing, for instance, when your tribe will participate in other legal systems and follow their rules, and when the tribe will follow its own rules. For example, it generally makes sense to follow established rules designed for safety, such as electrical codes, but you may not want to be required to follow other organizations' dispute resolution processes.

Outside organizations may be willing to adopt the tribe's rules or preferences, especially if the tribe represents a large customer base. Or they may be willing to adopt specific practices for tribal customers only. For example, if a tribe proposes net-metering to a co-op, the co-op may agree to adopt net-metering for all of its customers or may restrict the agreement to only tribal lands or tribal customers (or, of course, they may reject an agreement entirely).

Taxation is another important issue at the interface between the tribe and other organizations. Tribes are generally exempt from taxation by the state they are located in, but must act carefully to maintain that exemption when carrying out business transactions.

For more information on tribal, state, and federal legal issues, including taxation, see Legal Issues.