Big Fire Law and Policy Group
Advertise:   ads@blueearthmarketing.com   712.224.5420

Environment
Bill limits treatment as state for Oklahoma tribes


Oklahoma tribes will have to get the approval of the state if they want to administer their own environmental regulation programs under a rider tucked into the $286.5 billion highway transportation bill that passed the House and Senate on Friday.

The rider limits the ability for Oklahoma tribes to gain "treatment as state" designations from the Environmental Protection Agency. It requires tribes to obtain a "cooperative agreement" with the state before administering water or air quality programs. No other tribe in the nation is required to so do.

The provision otherwise expands the jurisdiction of the state "without any further demonstration of authority by the state." The bill requires the EPA to recognize the state's regulatory authority over Indian Country "on request of the state."

The language comes as the state battles the EPA over its treatment as state designation for the Pawnee Nation. The bill would apparently end the court case in favor of the state as the tribe lacks a "cooperative agreement" to administer its water quality program.

The full language of the rider [PDF: Conference Report] reads as follows:
SEC. 10211. ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS.
(a) OKLAHOMA.�Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (referred to in this section as the ��Administrator��) determines that a regulatory program submitted by the State of Oklahoma for approval by the Ad7 ministrator under a law administered by the Administrator meets applicable requirements of the law, and the Administrator approves the State to administer the State program under the law with respect to areas in the State that are not Indian country, on request of the State, the Administrator shall approve the State to administer the State program in the areas of the State that are in Indian country, without any further demonstration of authority by the State.
(b) TREATMENT AS STATE.�Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Administrator may treat an Indian tribe in the State of Oklahoma as a State under a law administered by the Administrator only if�
(1) the Indian tribe meets requirements under the law to be treated as a State; and
(2) the Indian tribe and the agency of the State of Oklahoma with federally delegated program au24 thority enter into a cooperative agreement, subject to review and approval of the Administrator after notice and opportunity for public hearing, under which the Indian tribe and that State agency agree to treatment of the Indian tribe as a State and to jointly plan administer program requirements."

Highway Transportation Act:
Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (H.R.3)

Relevant Links:
Pawnee Nation - http://www.pawneenation.org
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality - http://www.deq.state.ok.us

Related Stories:
EPA case on tribal sovereignty attracts attention (06/07)
Oklahoma challenges EPA on tribal sovereignty (05/02)
EPA seeks to reduce mercury from power plants (03/16)
EPA rulings worry tribal, state officials in Oklahoma (07/26)
Tribal authority challenge denied (6/4)
U.S. backs tribal environmental rights (5/15)
Mine near Wis. reservation upheld (1/30)
Wis. tribe has hopes after cyanide ban (11/7)
State fighting tribal water ruling (11/6)
Wis. might appeal Ojibwe decision (9/25)
Challenge to tribal authority rejected (9/24)
Court rejects challenge to tribal authority (4/17)
EPA Budget: No new tribal grants (4/13)
Pueblo battles arsenic in water standard (4/16)
EPA attorney pleads guilty (06/28)