Navajo Vice President Urges Lawmakers to End Regulatory Burdens
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim told the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today that over regulation by the federal government hinders economic development. The focus of today’s oversight hearing was to hear from tribal leaders and administration officials on energy development in Indian country.
In his testimony, Vice President Jim emphasized the regulatory hurdles preventing the Navajo Nation and tribes from successfully developing sustainable economies.
“The unreasonable requirements of federal agencies cost tribes essential jobs and revenues. The way to accomplish economic self-sufficiency is to minimize federal involvement in tribal energy development, and maximize tribal decision-making,” Vice President Jim stated.
On the issue of tribal energy resource agreements (TERAs), Vice President Jim stated the need for Congress to consider providing grants to tribes for capacity building. “The Navajo Nation is very interested in using TERAs. It requires significant capacity in terms of staffing. We need help to fully develop capacity, so we urge Congress to provide grants in those areas,” Jim added.
When asked about obstacles regarding solar energy development on the Navajo Nation, Vice President Jim said the issue comes down to land issues. “We have a huge land base. We have land regulations in place that hinders development. We need to change those laws. We want strategic partnerships with businesses but they shy away because of double taxation,” Jim said.
Fifty percent of Navajo people live below the federal poverty line with 50% unemployment. Vice President Jim said the majority of dollars earned by Navajo people on the Navajo Nation leaves the reservation every year to border towns. “We are working to reverse that. We want to develop our own energy resources that will create jobs. For example, the Desert Rock Project, which fell victim to over regulation, would have provided over 1,000 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs. We estimate that for every energy job that is created three subsidiary jobs follow,” Vice President Jim said.
(Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim testifies before Congress on over regulation specific to energy development in Indian Country. Photo by Jared King / Navajo Nation)