By Angel Ellis/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an independent executive agency of the United States federal government, used U.S. Senator Inhofe’s 2005 SAFETEA Act as a tool to assert the State of Oklahoma will have regulatory control over environmental issues on tribal lands in the state on Oct. 1.
Through a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt the EPA announces that it approved the State of Oklahoma’s request to ‘administer in certain areas of Indian country the States environmental regulatory programs that were previously approved by the EPA.’
The decision to grant the State control of environmental issues came after a July 22, request from Stitt (Cherokee).
The Governor’s request asked the EPA to grant Oklahoma jurisdiction over regulation of fossil fuels. Various donors have contributed $230,000 to the Stitt campaign according to www.followthemoney.org
MCN Principal Chief David Hill called the Governor’s tactics, “A swift move meant to circumvent the appropriate time and available information to adequately respond.”
“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is disappointed in the decision of the EPA to grant Governor Stitt’s request to administer environmental regulation in certain areas of Indian Country under the SAFETEA Act of 2005,” Chief Hill said. “The Muscogee (Creek) Nation acted swiftly, submitting a request for tribal consultation just two days after the Governors request.”
“The MCN will continue seeking to remedy the situation.”
The Muscogee (Creek) leader was not alone in his disappointment in the EPA. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued a similar statement condemning the decision as a knee-jerk reaction.
‘Unfortunately, the governor’s decision to invoke a 2005 federal law ignores the longstanding relationship between state agencies and the Cherokee Nation,’ Chief Hoskins said. ‘It’s disappointing the Cherokee Nation’s request that the EPA thoughtfully consult with Oklahoma tribes on this delegation request was ignored.’
‘All Oklahomans benefit when the Tribes and state work together in the spirit of mutual respect and this knee-jerk reaction to curtail tribal jurisdiction is not productive.’
The National Congress of American Indians has publicly condemned all legislation that diminishes the sovereignty, jurisdiction or treaty rights of tribal nations that are affirmed in the United States Constitution, statutes, and judicial opinions such as the McGirt SCOTUS decision.
In the EPA’s response to the Governors request, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler confirmed many Clean Air, Clean Water, and Drinking Water Acts will be under the state’s oversight. It removes oversight of environmental issues for the 38 federally recognized tribes of Oklahoma.
This decision means that tribes wanting to apply for regulatory oversight of these environmental programs must do so with the State of Oklahoma according to the EPA.
The only exceptions to this environmental oversight by the state would be similar to the scope of tribal authority before the USSC reaffirmed reservation status for the MCN. The agreement will benefit fossil fuel companies and commercial agricultural operations.
The EPA based its conclusions on the mandate in a 2005-midnight rider maneuvered into transportation by Sen. James Inhofe. While the MCN Principal Chief has publicly said the tribe will seek remedy, there is no word yet on what the next step is for the MCN.