August 5, 2022
President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Chuck Schumer
United States Senate
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Re: Inflation Reduction Act Impact on Tribal Nations and Native Communities
Dear President Biden:
I write to you today on behalf of NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power through activism, organizing, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change. We are engaged with our over 650 grantees and fellows, along with our thousands of supporters from Tribal Nations and Indigenous and Native communities throughout the United States and beyond.
We want to acknowledge and express our support for the meaningful investments proposed in the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”), such as the high efficiency electric home rebate, the climate resilience funds, the expansion of the DOE’s loan guarantee program, the forestry conservation program, and much more. Through these programs and investments, we can begin to address critical infrastructure gaps, to create jobs, training, and technical assistance in tribal areas, as well as lift up and strengthen Indigenous knowledge and leadership in climate adaptation and mitigation – all of which add value to achieving the climate goals of the Biden-Harris Administration.
At the same time, we know all too well that our Tribal Nations and communities are at the forefront of experiencing devastating climate change impacts and are historically harmed by environmental injustice, extraction, and pollution on our lands and waters. While we support many of the investments towards strengthening climate resilience and adaptation, we must also express our strong disappointment in the provisions that tie renewable energy development to oil and gas leasing. We know the resources are there to invest in a swift and just transition away from fossil fuels.
Part of our work is supporting the Indigenous and frontline communities that are ready to build partnerships between the private and public sectors to create solutions, infrastructure, and capacity to move us away from the extractive industries that are exacerbating climate change and harming our communities, the land, air, and water. We believe that moving away from investments in the fossil fuel and other extractive industries and reallocating the funding to further research and development will help us find the solutions we need for true decarbonization and large-scale equitable carbon emissions reductions. We are already aware of innovative, Indigenous-led solutions that just need the proper funding and support to be scaled and replicated.
In many ways, this legislation is a step back in progressive energy transitions. By including things like carbon capture and storage, we are not addressing the climate crisis but deferring it for future generations to deal with. Underscoring our concern with the linking of expanded renewable energy development to the sale of new oil and gas leases, we point to the November 2021 Department of Interior Report on the Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program which states that “The oil and gas industry has a substantial number of unused permits to drill onshore. As of September 30, 2021, the oil and gas industry holds more than 9,600 approved permits that are available to drill.” This finding begs the question of why more leases are being opened when the industry is unable to use the leases they currently hold.
When it comes to offshore drilling, the coupling of the expansion of oil and gas with the development of renewables, is not only morally unsound but a betrayal of this Administration’s pledge to combat environmental racism and destruction. We urge you to not only decouple oil and gas leasing from the development of renewable energy but to also secure offshore sites from further oil and gas leasing or exploitation. Rather than expanding the fossil fuel industry on the Gulf Coast or the Arctic, strong investment in infrastructure, climate adaptation technologies and a plan to address loss and damages is needed.
In addition to these recommendations, we call on President Biden to immediately declare a climate emergency and use his existing authority to reject new fossil fuel projects and new oil and gas leasing both onshore and offshore. Declaring a climate emergency will unlock President Biden’s full set of powers to not only release Defense funding to build renewable and just energy systems, but also confront fossil fuels head-on by stopping crude oil exports.
Once again, we support the historic and meaningful steps proposed in the IRA and acknowledge the effort it has taken to get this bill back into consideration and we respectfully implore you to hold the line against any new fossil fuel projects and use every tool available to advance a truly just, renewable energy future that does not sacrifice our communities or perpetuate injustice, especially by the fossil fuel industry.
Nick Tilsen, Founder/CEO of NDN Collective
Jade Begay, Director of the Climate Justice Campaign, NDN Collective