March 6, 2023 By Ramona du Houx On March 2, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved a resolution recognizing and committing the agency to support California tribal energy sovereignty and independence. “We’re here because tribal energy sovereignty is a priority, tribal engagement is a priority and tribal partnerships are a priority,” said CEC Chair David Hochschild said during his opening remarks. “We cannot […]
On March 2, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved a resolution recognizing and committing the agency to support California tribal energy sovereignty and independence.
“We’re here because tribal energy sovereignty is a priority, tribal engagement is a priority and tribal partnerships are a priority,” said CEC Chair David Hochschild said during his opening remarks. “We cannot build the future we need without first facing the past that we’ve shared.”
The resolution was approved during a first-of-its-kind meeting between Native American tribal leaders and commissioners from the CEC and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Representatives from federal agencies and more than a dozen tribes participated in the event, which was held at Cal Poly Humboldt.
“This is an historic moment. The California Energy Commission’s support for tribal energy sovereignty and independence is good for us and it sets a strong precedent for all of Indian Country. I look forward to working with the CEC on the development of the tribal energy policy. The policy will empower and strengthen tribes across the state,” said Chairman Joseph L. James, Yurok Tribe.
The resolution action builds on Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2019 executive order acknowledging and apologizing for historical harms inflicted on California Native Americans and reaffirming the principles of government-to-government engagement with tribes.
“I’m a little blown away by the language, it’s very generous. I think it’s one thing to talk about land back, but to actually pass resolutions and take action . . . that’s really putting it out in front,” said Jason Ramos, tribal council member, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe.
The resolution establishes goals like increasing access to funding, enhancing consultation and economic diversification. It also details actions such as developing capacity and technical assistance resources, dedicating tribal set-asides, and enhancing land use considerations around the protection of tribal cultural resources in planning clean energy projects.
“I hope I’m not the only one who almost teared up when (the resolution) was being read. I think this is an amazing document. I want to thank everybody who was involved with writing this and presenting it,” said Vice Chairman Brian McDonald, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe.
As a next step, CEC staff will work with California tribes to develop a Tribal Energy Sovereignty Policy to implement the resolution. The policy will formalize CEC’s approach to tribal energy sovereignty, land and consultation.
“I want to commend the people that put this resolution together. . . I would really be interested in being involved in the energy sovereignty policy as much as we can to provide input, feedback and hear ideas of other tribes, and learn how we can learn and grow this,” said Linnea Jackson, general manager of the Hoopa Valley Public Utilities District, Hoopa Valley Tribe.
Tribal Leaders Highlight Local Energy Efforts
The meeting featured presentations on a variety of efforts California tribal governments are undertaking to advance a more sustainable future including:
Dam removal efforts on the Klamath River.
Carbon sequestration in the Humboldt region.
Carbon offset projects in California.
Renewable energy microgrids.
Representatives explained how tribal communities are impacted by power outages when wildfires threaten the electrical grid, which are happening more often because of climate change. They expressed the need for ongoing funding, permanent staffing and program flexibility to expand energy independence and resiliency.
State Actions to Support Tribal Energy Projects
CPUC and CEC staff also gave an overview of state-funded projects and ways that the agencies are engaging with tribes through government-to-government consultation. Speakers detailed opportunities for tribes and discussed topics of interest including:
Department of Energy application to fund a portfolio of tribal energy resilience projects.
Tribal rulemaking and land transfer policy.
Public participation and capacity assistance funding.
To date, the CEC has invested nearly $63 million in tribal projects, including a $31 million grant approved last fall for a long-duration energy storage system — one of the largest state grants ever awarded to benefit a tribal government.
Agency tribal liaisons encouraged representatives to continue engaging with them directly to address the needs of their communities.
About the California Energy Commission The California Energy Commission is the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency. It has seven core responsibilities: advancing state energy policy, encouraging energy efficiency, certifying thermal power plants, investing in energy innovation, developing renewable energy, transforming transportation, and preparing for energy emergencies.