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Donald Trump's environmental nominee takes credit for tribal water deal

Filed Under: Environment | Law | National | Politics
More on: barack obama, chickasaw, choctaw, donald trump, epa, oklahoma, s.612, scott pruitt, sovereignty, water, wiin act
     
   

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) has been tapped by Republican president-elect Donald Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Oklahoma's top legal official is taking credit for a water settlement with the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation even though his office tried to have the case dismissed.

In August, Attorney General Scott Pruitt praised the tribes for working "purposefully and tirelessly" to reach an agreement regarding water in their treaty territory. But if he had gotten his way there wouldn't have been a settlement at all.

"The tribes have only limited remaining water rights, if any, and, as the tribes concede, the nature and magnitude of those rights still needs to be determined in an appropriate water adjudication," Pruitt's office wrote in February 2012 in an effort to dismiss the lawsuit. The tribes quickly agreed to settlement talks and the case was essentially put on hold for five years.

A month after the August announcement, Congress was on its way to ratifying the settlement without so much as a hearing. The agreement was eventually included in S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 16.

“Under the leadership of AG Pruitt, this team has held bad actors accountable and protected stewardship of Oklahoma’s natural resources,” a spokesperson for Pruitt told the Associated Press, specifically citing the water settlement as well as a U.S. Supreme Court case that affected the tribe's water rights.

During his time in office, Pruitt has fought tribes in sovereignty, jurisdiction, immunity and taxation cases. He has since been tapped by Republican president-elect Donald Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. During the Obama administration, the EPA has taken greater steps to improve water quality in Indian Country and respect treaty rights.

Read More on the Story:
It’s a tough time in Oklahoma, except for Scott Pruitt (AP 12/20)
Oklahoma budget hole nearly $900 million (The Oklahoman 12/20)

Related Stories:
Tribal sovereignty foe Scott Pruitt slated to join Donald Trump's administration (12/07)
Oklahoma governor discussed Indian issues with Donald Trump (11/23)
Oklahoma lawmakers push for approval of tribal water rights deal (09/29)
House approves national water bill without #NoDAPL amendment (9/28)
Senate passes water bill but fails to include #NoDAPL amendment (9/15)
Editorial: Settlement recognizes tribal role in water management (08/15)
Oklahoma tribes herald 'momentous achievement' on water rights (8/12)
Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation resolve water rights lawsuit (8/11)
NPR: Oklahoma tribes continue talks to settle water rights suit (09/19)
Oklahoma tribes continue talks to settle water rights lawsuit (07/09)
Supreme Court backs Oklahoma in water dispute with Texas (06/14)
Oklahoma tribes caught in water battle before Supreme Court (05/02)
Oklahoma tribes won't dispute existing water use permits (1/27)
Judge pushes Oklahoma tribal water lawsuit into mediation (11/14)
Editorial: Reaching consensus with tribes on water supply (6/7)
Editorial: Oklahoma tribes threaten legal action over water (4/13)
Choctaw Nation and Chickasaw Nation assert rights to water (4/12)
Choctaw Nation prepared to take action over transfer of lake (6/11)
Choctaw Nation expresses interest in taking control of lake (5/19)

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