Seeking control of the massive hydropower operation Kinzua Dam near Warren, Pennsylvania, the Seneca Nation recently launched Seneca Energy LLC, a new company to handle and diversify its energy development. On February 12, the Seneca Nation of Indians council approved the creation of the new subsidiary.
“Indian Country in particular is well suited to green energy development, given its inherent sovereign advantages and unique status,” said David Kimelberg, CEO of Seneca Holdings. “Moreover, the Department of Interior’s Division of Indian Energy Policy Development offers grants and low interest loans to promote Indian Nation energy development.”
Seneca Energy is fully owned by Seneca Holdings, which was formed two years ago to economically diversify the Nation, bringing in sources of income in non-gaming and non-tobacco industries. Under it, Seneca Energy will seek renewable energy technologies from solar to wind, land/water, biomass, geo-thermal, natural gas and others. Once Seneca Energy builds a track record, it plans to extend its expertise to other Indian Nations in leveraging their green energy assets and generating revenue.
“Embracing environmental sustainability–which the Seneca Nation has done for hundreds of years – is the foundation of Seneca Energy’s mission. That naturally leverages Seneca Holdings’ and Seneca Energy’s positions as Native owned and managed companies,” said Robert Odawi Porter, president of the Seneca Nation and chairman of Seneca Holdings in a news release. “This view is confirmed by the global surge of interest in green energy development and the various federal incentives currently available for green energy ventures.”
Kinzua Dam sits at the top of Seneca Energy’s radar. Since the Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy’s license to operate the dam expires in 2015, the Seneca Nation filed application documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 30, 2010, for the license to operate the Seneca Pumped Storage Project at Kinzua Dam. The hydropower project generates 450 megawatts of electricity, which corporations have sold and profited from for 40 years without compensating the Nation. “Who better than us to have the right to operate a hydroelectric power facility for the next 50 years that is sustained by our very own lands and waters?” Porter asked The Post-Journal.
FirstEnergy seeks renewal of its power plant operating license. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will handle the decision-making process.
Operating the facility is “exactly the kind of green-energy development that is completely consistent with our time-honored Seneca values of protecting the lands and waters of our Mother Earth,” Porter told The Post-Journal. “Unlike corporate interests that scatter their profits to shareholders far and wide, our interests focus on the long-term survival of our people and the vitality of our region.”