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






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)

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