The federal government’s overbearing regulatory “protection” has made it tough for Native Americans to pursue economic opportunities, a Wall Street Journal op-ed this weekend argued.

 Nowhere is this so apparent as in the energy sector:

Nearly every aspect of energy development on reservations—such as reviews and approvals of even the most basic land-use decisions—is controlled by federal agencies.

… Indian energy resources hold significant potential to help lift tribes out of poverty. Their value, according to an estimate by the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, could be as high as $1.5 trillion.

But the federal government makes it difficult for tribes to capitalize on their resource wealth. On Indian lands, developers must go through 49 steps and at least four federal agencies just to acquire a permit for energy development, compared with only four steps off reservations. It’s not uncommon for several years to pass before the necessary approvals are acquired to begin development on Indian lands—a process that takes only a few months on private lands.

The result is that most tribal energy resources remain undeveloped, even when tribes themselves want to capitalize on their energy wealth.

With red tape like that, wonder which one energy developers might pick to invest in?

 Oppressive bureaucracy like this is a huge part of the reason that 28.3 percent of Native Americans lived in poverty as of the last census. That’s the highest poverty rate of any group in the United States.