Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Efficiency and GHG Reduction the Northern Cheyenne Tribe Reservation

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Northern Cheyenne Tribe Reservation, Montana

Federal Funding: $200,000
Project Timeline: January 2010 – June 2014

Project Summary

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe has a premier Environmental Protection Department (EPD) which is a leader among tribes for air and water quality protection programs. However, the Tribal EPD’s own office on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation was one of the most energy-inefficient buildings on the Reservation. To reduce the Northern Cheyenne Tribe's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the Tribal EPD partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to turn this building into an energy-efficiency demonstration and training project. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe has a strong cultural and historical connection to the land, wildlife, and waters on the Reservation, and this project has been a vital opportunity for the Tribe to align its energy needs and use with its ecological and cultural values.

To achieve its primary goal of reducing the Tribe's GHG emissions, the Tribal EPD updated a previous energy audit to fully account for building maintenance activities and used this audit to plan energy-efficiency retrofits and green power projects. The building renovation plans stemmed from a 2009 energy audit, which recommended solar panels, efficient insulation, and weatherization of windows, roofs, doors, siding, ceilings, and floors. With the National Wildlife Federation, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe contracted High Plains Architects to renovate the building.

Due to cost constraints, actions that would reduce GHGs most significantly were prioritized. However, the Tribal EPD continued to fundraise to ensure completion of phases that were not covered by the Climate Showcase Communities grant. Savings after completion included a 125 kWh reduction in energy usage, and an annual reduction of 2,317 gallons of propane. The renovation took place according to the retrofit plan, which included a preliminary score indicating Gold Level Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certification. The EPD has an account in EPA’s Portfolio Manager and is adding electrical and propane data to track ongoing GHG emission reductions.

Contractors implemented retrofits and green power projects with support from tribal college students and community members. A training program covered three sessions on energy audits, energy efficiency, and small scale renewable energy. Participants conducted audits and participated in retrofits of the Tribal EPD Office as part of a field training component. The benefits of the project include cost savings from energy-efficiency improvements, reductions in the tribe's GHG emissions, and improved employment opportunities for students and community members.

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Community Characteristics

Population                                  4,000

Area                                          318 square miles

Government Type:                      Tribal

Community Type:                        Rural

Median household income:           $23,679

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Final Results

Projected Cumulative Results

Annual GHG Reductions

20.5 mt CO2e

30.0 mt CO2e

Job Training Participants



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Lessons Learned

  • Lack of transportation for training activities and the lack of interest from building contractors to respond to the building retrofits RFP that was advertised throughout Montana presented challenges. At the outset of the project, assuring the availability of sufficient resources can help prevent problems later in the project.
  • The Tribe’s own internal procurement and contract polices for construction projects were severely outdated. The Program had various issues with the procedures in place to advertise the RFP, timelines, bid opening, etc. In response to these difficulties the Tribe re-evaluated and updated the tribal policies which govern this process. The newly developed tribal polices were completed and adopted by the tribal council in December 2014. Ensuring policies are updated, perhaps on an annual basis, could help ensure smooth project implementation.

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  • Buildings on the NCT reservation are old and highly inefficient. The project began on a small scale by retrofitting one tribally-owned building, which can be replicated over time to the other buildings and houses on the reservation to achieve the goal of reducing the NCT’s overall emissions.
  • Financial savings due to lower propane bills are being used to meet community needs such as job training.
  • NCT is promoting the project as a replicable model by developing partnerships with multiple stakeholder groups, including the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, Greenweaver Inc., Lakota Solar Enterprises, Tongue River Electric Cooperative, and Montana State University Extension.

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