Navajo Nation President Nez discusses federal regulations and infrastructure

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Navajo Nation president Jonathan Nez recently met with Biden administration cabinet officials on plans to expand infrastructure on the nation’s lands. Earlier today, we asked president Nez about what was discussed.

The focus was on regulation, particularly the many layers of federal bureaucracy that any tribal project has to go through.

“There are a lot of regulations and policies and laws that slow these types of projects down, but we’re hopeful that with the new administration there, the Biden-Harris administration, and the new cabinet we can update some of these old laws and regulations so projects can be completed in a timely way,” Nez said.

“We’ve seen with the CARES act funding, we ran out of time, and now we’ve had to push some of those projects onto the American Rescue Plan Act, and we’re still dealing with some of these, we call them red-tape bureaucracy,” Nez said.

The Navajo president stressed just how many agencies are involved when doing projects on federal land, which includes that on tribal reservations.

“We have to deal with the department of the Interior, the BIA, in certain areas we have to work with the Bureau of Land Management and the Parks Service. Of course, we have to do environmental clearances under the US EPA, and if what we do deals with roads it’s the Highway Administration which is under the Department of Transportation,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can get this administration to change some of these so projects can get done efficiently.”

The Navajo nation in conjunction with White House staff has drafted a white-paper detailing regulatory changes that could be made by various federal departments without any legislative approval required.

“There’s been precedent set back in the 1980’s where the BLM and the Highway Administration had an agreement where the BLM delegated several responsibilities so highways could be built more quickly,” Nez said. “We noted that precedent, and we said why can’t you do that again for those roads overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior?”

While the regulatory changes have not yet been made, the white-paper was referenced in the American Infrastructure and Jobs Act.

“I appreciate the White House, the Biden-Harris administration having us at the table,” Nez said. “We’ve met with several cabinet members already, and that shows that this administration is looking out for Indian country.”

Jonathan Nez/ Navajo Nation President

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