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With $135M EPA grant, 14-tribe coalition hopes to ‘jump start’ Indigenous solar economy

Bureau of Land Management

This week the Environmental Protection Agency announced $7 billion in funding to promote distributed solar energy for low-income and disadvantaged communities. $135 million will go to a tribal coalition.

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) – also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes – was one of 60 applicants awarded EPA Solar for All grants.

The money will go toward residential and other distributed solar projects benefiting 14 tribal nations that are a part of the Northern Plains Tribal Coalition, which includes several in Wyoming and Montana. The Native-led nonprofit Indigenized Energy will administer the grant and work with the tribes on projects.

“Our tribal nations in the past have always been fighting against something … trying to protect our rights or protect our homelands, our resources,” Indigenized Executive Director Cody Two Bears, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said in a press call this week. “But now this is an opportunity to not just fight against something, but allow these tribes to fight for something.”

He said workforce development and hiring tribal members for projects will be a major focus. Many tribal members in the coalition face high electricity prices and frequent power outages, according to the EPA.

“I have no doubt that (Solar for All) funding will jumpstart solar economies for all 14 tribes,” said MHA Nation Councilman Fred Fox. “These projects will create hundreds of jobs and good income .… They will bring energy security and tremendous cost savings to residents of tribal nations, including some of the most vulnerable residents, veterans, tribal elders and children.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Murphy Woodhouse