Investment in renewable energy resources is becoming increasingly essential for the governments of both the United States and Canada as they search for viable alternatives to traditional, and often foreign-controlled, energy resources. The potential contributions of American Indians and First Nations in the energy sector have been long undervalued and hitherto largely untapped, despite their influence and control over huge areas of undeveloped land perfectly suited to multiple forms of renewable energy—including hydroelectric, solar, wind generation, and geothermal energy. Due to the unique legal history of American Indian Tribes and First Nations, however, any renewable energy project on their lands is potentially subject to a confusing patchwork of jurisdictional restrictions and legal requirements which threaten to impede development and investment efforts.
This Note provides a valuable overview of legal impediments to renewable energy development from the perspective of Tribes and First Nations, private investors, and local and federal governments. Comparative law serves to highlight the similar and diverging successes and failures to establish renewable energy projects on Tribal and First Nation lands under the current regulatory framework of the American and Canadian systems. Based on a critical analysis of governmental incentives and key legal considerations, this Note offers a road map for navigating the current jurisdictional detours and highlights the failures that must be addressed by future legislation.