April 4, 2017

Fossil Fuels Power Tribal Budgets


The New York Times reports that the budgets of some of America’s largest Native American tribes are powered by fossil fuels:

“But some of the largest tribes in the United States derive their budgets from the very fossil fuels that Mr. Trump has pledged to promote, including the Navajo in the Southwest and the Osage in Oklahoma, as well as smaller tribes like the Southern Ute in Colorado. And the Crow are among several Indian nations looking to the president’s promises to nix Obama-era coal rules, pull back on regulations, or approve new oil and gas wells to help them lift their economies and wrest control from a federal bureaucracy they have often seen as burdensome.”

On Montana’s Crow Indian Reservataion, a coal mine that provides fuel for Minnesota’s largest power plant employs 170 people and provides at least half of the tribes nonfederal budget:

Here on the 2.3-million-acre Crow Indian Reservation in southern Montana, at least half of the tribe’s nonfederal budget comes from a single source: a vast single-pit mine at the edge of the reservation, called the Absaloka, which sends brown-black coal by rail to Minnesota’s largest power plant. The Absaloka opened in 1974. It operates all day every day, employs about 170 people and has left a complex legacy. The work — shoveling coal dust, hauling through the night in trucks — is grueling. But on the reservation, coal royalties, taxes and mine salaries have funded college educations, weddings and much-cherished homes with ponies corralled in the back. A coal payment every four months of about $225 to every tribal citizen puts food on tables, warm jackets on backs and gifts under Christmas trees.