Indian Tribes' New Negotiating Power Costs Utilities

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Terry Aguilar says higher right-of-way fees are needed to provide for his 850-member reservation near Santa Fe, N.M. Rick Scibelli Jr. for The Wall Street Journal

[From The Wall Street Journal]

Governments Demand Much Higher Right-of-Way Fees on Reservations

SAN ILDEFONSO PUEBLO, N.M.—When a local utility renewed its lease in the 1980s to continue running the power lines that stretch above the adobe homes and mesas on this small Indian reservation, it paid the tribe a total of $114,000.

But when it came time to extend the right-of-way deal again for 25 years, San Ildefonso Pueblo drove a much harder bargain. It secured nearly $4.7 million from the utility, Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Inc., in a settlement finalized in February, and it is taking a similarly aggressive negotiating tack with other entities running pipelines and roads through its land.

"This is all we have," said Terry Aguilar, the 43-year-old governor of the 850-member pueblo at the base of the Jemez Mountains near Santa Fe. "We don't have gaming facilities. So this is how we get reoccurring revenue every year. It allows us to provide for our community."

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