In response to the Department of Energy’s Interim Implementation Guide for the Justice40 Initiative, the Indigneous Environmental Network (IEN) finds the Guide lacking in clarity and substance. While we do not speak on behalf of the United Frontline Table (UFT), our membership on the UFT afforded us the privilege of being well acquainted with the planning stages through our relationship with the DOE’s Justice40 Initiative. Although we support Shalanda Baker in her position at the DOE, and while we understand the difficult situation one is placed in while working for a federal agency, we must also use our positionality to uplift the voices of our Indigenous grassroots and frontline base.
Throughout the course of ongoing conversations with the DOE, IEN imparted the necessity of including federal codification of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for Tribal Nations and communities. This is a crucial step to correcting the generations of harm inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples by the federal government. However, the document does not include FPIC and the Interim document narrowly defines our communities as only those “geographic areas within Tribal jurisdictions.” Therefore, the guide excludes many federally recognized Tribes, and non-recognized Indigenous peoples broadly, from the “benefits” of Justice40. Further, it is unclear how the DOE will implement their standard of consultation with each of the approximately 576 federally recognized Tribes, which may serve to further delay or hinder any investment in the Tribal Nations who fit the DOE’s narrow definition of “disadvantaged communities.”
The document that all but ensures our communities will be neglected in the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative. In addition to the information we learned while attending the DOE Justice40 Stakeholder meeting yesterday, the document makes it clear that Tribal Nations will once again be relegated to the side. Not only are we left subject to “consultation” throughout this process, we were also informed that Tribal set asides for funding were not included, under the guise of tailoring the process to each Tribal Nation’s unique bureaucracy. This Justice40 document makes it abundantly clear the Biden Administration’s neoliberal position on issues impacting Indigenous Peoples and highlights the necessity of federally codifying Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) all the more imperative.