Breaking Down Waste to Build Up Tribal Business: How Anaerobic Digestion is Creating Jobs and Revenue for Indian Tribes

Attorney Jeffrey Nelson

It was recently announced that the Tulalip Tribes of Tulalip, WA had entered into a partnership with a local dairy farm to operate a dairy digester that decomposes manure and food waste and turns them into renewable energy that is used to provide energy to about 700 nearby homes.  The digester also produces a high-grade liquid fertilizer that is sold to local farms.

This type of activity will be growing in volume and significance in the years to come.  Not all tribes are fortunate enough to be located next to large population centers with significant amounts of expendable income, and only a relatively few tribes have reservations with abundant natural resources like timber, oil and gas and coal.  On the other hand, manure, food waste and other organic waste materials are readily available almost everywhere.  Moreover, a growing number of states and local governments have passed increasingly aggressive recycling laws designed to reduce the flow of waste to landfills.  This means not only recycling materials, but using aerobic and anerobic digestion to turn organic materials such as paper, yard waste and food waste into forms of renewable energy and other useful products that can be used for fertilizing crops and enhancing soils, highway landscaping and landfill coverage.

In short, anaerobic digestion can be a valuable means of tribal economic development.  It can help tribes in raising governmental revenues and creating job for members and will also help the environment by reducing the need for landfills, decreasing greenhouse gases, and providing a significant source of renewable energy. 

The Sustainable Materials Management Program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) provides financial and technical assistance with regard to anaerobic digestion. Several program offices within the United States Department of Agricultural also offer assistance with anaerobic digestion projects. 

Please call the attorneys in the Indian law practice at mctlaw if you want to learn more about anerobic digestion and how it can be a valuable tribal economic tool that also furthers tribal environmental preservation goals.

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