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Seneca Nation - 2007 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Seneca Nation
Location: Salamanca, NY
Project Title: Energy Organization Development
Type of Application: First Steps (Planning)
DOE Grant Number: DE-FG36-07GO17089
Project Amounts:
DOE: $100,000
Awardee: $8,382
Total: $108,382
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2007
End: December 2008


On the three territories of the Seneca Nation, there exist opportunities for energy development from both renewable and nonrenewable resources. The Seneca territories have long been tapped for natural gas; significant reserves are known to exist under the Cattaraugus Territory. Renewable resources that are currently being assessed for development include wind energy and biomass power, and the nation is also looking at expanded applications of ground-source heat-pump technology for efficient heating and cooling.

The nation recognizes that in order to pursue energy development, it must first define the most appropriate and effective organizational structure to implement, manage and develop its energy resources and programs. The structure must be flexible enough to respond to market changes, yet stable enough to sustain the program, the enterprise(s) and the business strategies over time. This organizational development must be formalized to provide a sustainable environment in which the energy program can thrive.

Project Description

The Seneca Nation embarked on the development of a strategic energy plan in early 2003. In Phases I and II, the nation's vision for energy self-sufficiency and development were defined, its energy needs quantified, and its renewable and nonrenewable resource opportunities and energy options identified. With development being the Seneca's primary objective in Phase III, the next step in the planning process is to establish a formal organizational structure through which the strategic energy plan can be implemented. If the Seneca are to embark on the intended energy development projects, there must be a formalized structure through which the projects and their resulting generation can be managed. Issues regarding the nation's power generation, distribution, power sales and purchases, exploration and development partnerships, facility and infrastructure needs, asset management, etc., must all be evaluated and defined within a context of organizational and business planning.


The Seneca Nation strategic energy plan and its current initiative to develop a formal energy organization, strive to meet the ever-growing energy needs of the Seneca communities and businesses while strengthening the nation's sovereignty, creating economic opportunities, improving tribal revenues and perpetuating the cultural and environmental values of the Seneca. These goals are central to the nation's comprehensive economic development strategy, and more specifically, to the economic diversification strategy that has been under development for several years.

An organizational plan and a professional development plan are now required to guide the long-term growth of the program. In order to insure sustainability, the nation is requesting funding through DOE's "First Steps" grant program for energy organization development. The objectives of the project are as follows:

  1. Complete an evaluation of organizational options by retaining utility planning consultants to evaluate the formation of a tribal utility and/or energy services/ production entities
  2. Develop and adopt tribal regulatory and statutory framework, i.e., energy policies and codes
  3. Create the legal framework for a tribal energy unit to implement the strategic energy plan
  4. Identify potential strategic project-development partners and negotiation strategies for project partnerships and power purchase, transmission and distribution objectives.
  5. Create an organizational plan and preliminary business plan, which will define the organization's structure, provide a blueprint for its creation and operation, and all of the requisite pro forma financials and projections
  6. Create a human capacity development plan to insure the involvement and employment of tribal members in the implementation of the strategic energy plan.


An organizational plan and a professional development plan are now required to guide the long-term growth of the program and retain the expertise needed to guide this plan and develop the strategies. In addition, business plans are needed to support its implementation. Under this project, the nation intends to retain utility planning consultants to evaluate the formation of a tribal utility and/or energy services/ production companies and recommend the most efficient and effective framework within which the energy program will operate. It will define the organization's structure, and provide a blueprint for its creation and operation. At the completion of the grant period, the Seneca Nation will adopt a complete organizational plan, including the legal structure, operational guidelines, energy codes and ordinances, human resource development plan, and sustainability strategy.

Project Location

The Seneca Nation holds title to three distinct territories in western New York State; they are the Allegany, Cattaraugus and Oil Spring territories. These territories encompass parts of five counties: the Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara counties. The Cattaraugus Territory has 2472 tribal members residing within its boundaries. The Allegany territory has a population of 1267 members but also has the distinction of including a U.S. city within its boundaries — the City of Salamanca, which has a total population of 6097 (U.S. Census, 2000). The Oil Springs territory has nine enrolled members living within its boundaries. However, the nation's total enrolled population, including off-territory members, is 7388.

Project Status

This project is complete. For details, see the final report. The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2007 funding opportunity announcement, "First Steps Toward Developing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency on Tribal Lands," and started in September 2007. For more information, see the project status reports from November 2007 and November 2008.

For current project status or additional information, contact the project contact.

Project Contact

Gina Paradis
Manager, Economic Development
Community Planning and Development Department
Thomas Indian School Building, 3rd Floor
12837 Route 438
Irving, NY 14081
Telephone: 716-532-4900