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This discussion explores the roots of the Native American reservation electricity gap through a case study of the Yurok Tribe’s work to extend the electric grid to the Yurok Reservation in Humboldt County, California. Native American reservations are the communities in the continental United States most lacking in access to electricity. The discussion examines the Yurok Tribe’s three decades of leadership to build electric and communications infrastructure to support tribal success and sustainability, and improve the economy, education, health, and the environment on the Yurok Reservation centered on the Klamath River in California.
Yurok Tribe Planning Director Peggy O’Neill will highlight the Yurok Tribe’s commitment to building infrastructure access discuss key barriers to infrastructure development. Professor Catherine Sandoval will discuss her book chapter, Energy Access is Energy Justice: The Yurok Tribe’s Trailblazing Work to Close the Native American Reservation Electricity Gap, published in: ENERGY JUSTICE, INTERNATIONAL AND U.S. PERSPECTIVES, Raya Salter, Carmen G. Gonzalez, Michael H. Dworkin, Roxanna A. Mastor, Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Eds. (Edward Elgar, Pub. 2018). The book chapter argues that federal policies to fracture tribes, fragment tribal landholding, and funnel tribal resources to others erected and reinforce barriers to electricity access necessary to economic, community, and environmental health. Ms. O’Neill and Professor Sandoval will suggest initiatives to close electricity access gaps to increase tribal well-being, strengthen democracy, improve the environment, and forestall climate change.
Catherine J.K. Sandoval is a tenured Law Professor at Santa Clara University. Since 2004 she has taught energy, communications, antitrust, and contract law. Her scholarship analyzes energy and telecommunications access, reliability, and safety including the Native American Reservation electricity gap. She served a six year term as a Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, appointed by Governor Brown. The first Latinx CPUC Commissioner, first Latina Rhodes Scholar, and first in her family to earn a Bachelor’s degree, she earned a B.A. from Yale University, a Master of Letters from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Peggy O'Neill is responsible for planning and construction of tribal infrastructure, buildings, operation of the tribal transportation and transit program, grant writing and tribal realty. In her capacity as Planning & Community Development Director, Peggy has initiated and obtained funding for many new tribal programs over the last twenty years, including: law enforcement, transportation, emergency services, and public utilities, among others. She has supervised the construction of over $200 million in new tribal facilities for the Yurok Tribe, including community buildings, fire stations, water systems, roads, communication infrastructure, hotel and casino in addition to 30 miles of electrical power lines. Peggy received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Humboldt State University and has over forty years of experience working for tribes in Northern California. This experience has given her a deep understanding of the community and economic development needs of Native American Tribes.