Ignoring Indigenous rights is making the green transition more expensive

Source: Grist


In December, a federal judge found that Enel Green Power, an Italian energy corporation operating an 84-turbine wind farm on the Osage Reservation for nearly a decade, had trespassed on Native land. The ruling was a clear victory for the Osage Nation and the company estimated that complying with the order to tear down the turbines would cost nearly $260 million. 

Attorneys familiar with Federal Indian law say it’s uncommon for U.S. courts to side so clearly with tribal nations and actually expel developers trespassing on their land. But observers also see the ruling as part of a broader trend: Gone are the days when developers could ignore Indigenous rights with impunity. Now, even if projects that threaten Native land and cultural resources ultimately proceed, they may come with years-long delays that tack on millions of dollars. As more companies look to build wind and solar farms or mine minerals for renewable energy, failing to recognize Indigenous sovereignty could make the clean energy transition a lot more expensive and much farther away.

“I think tribes are starting to see that they have more leverage than they thought, and that they’ve previously exercised, over all this infrastructure that’s on their land,” said Pilar Thomas, an attorney, member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona and former deputy director of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs at the U.S. Department of Energy. “They want to make sure that they’re getting their fair share.”

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