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Politics
Rider against Oklahoma tribes blamed on Inhofe


Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) was responsible for a rider tucked into the $286 billion highway transportation bill that subjects the sovereignty of Oklahoma tribes to the state.

Inhofe is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and was the lead Senate negotiator on the highway bill. Senate staff and state officials said Inhofe inserted the language against Oklahoma tribes.

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 rider also expands the jurisdiction of the state. It requires the EPA to recognize the state's regulatory authority over Indian Country "on request of the state."

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 Administrator 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 authority 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."

Get the Story:
Bill targets tribes' environment rules (The Oklahoman 8/9)
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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

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Bill limits treatment as state for Oklahoma tribes (8/1)
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Oklahoma challenges EPA on tribal sovereignty (05/02)
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EPA rulings worry tribal, state officials in Oklahoma (07/26)
Tribal authority challenge denied (6/4)
U.S. backs tribal environmental rights (5/15)
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