your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
EPA allows state jurisdiction over Maine tribal lands
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

The state of Maine has the authority to regulate water pollution within the reservations of two tribes, the Environmental Protection Agency announced last month.

Rejecting the Department of Interior's position on the issue, the EPA approved the state's pollution program to cover lands held in trust for the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. Citing the federal law that settled the tribes' land claims and granted them federal recognition, officials said the tribes lack exclusive jurisdiction to regulate certain activities affecting their reservations.

"EPA does not agree with the DOI opinion that the southern tribes' area of exclusive jurisdiction over internal tribal matters reaches so far as to preclude the state from regulating any discharges to water in the southern tribes' Indian Territories," officials wrote in a November 18 Federal Register notice.

The decision comes after more than two years of internal deliberations. At the start of the Bush administration in January 2001, EPA officials approved the state's program but exempted tribal lands in order to examine the question of jurisdiction.

In the meantime, the tribes were engaged in a series of legal battles with non-Indian paper companies whose activities directly affect tribal lands. After a series of state and federal rulings, the Maine Supreme Court forced the tribes to turn over internal documents to the companies. The tribes, in effect, were subject to the state's public records laws.

The EPA said those court decisions did not play a major role in its analysis of tribal-state jurisdiction. Instead, officials looked to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA) of 1980. They agreed with the state in concluding that the law gives the state the authority to regulate water pollution on Penobscot and Passamaquoddy lands.

The same is not true elsewhere in the U.S., where states generally lack power over Indian lands. In fact, EPA has recognized the right of tribes to develop their own water, air and other environmental standards and programs.

Throughout the dispute, the Interior Department upheld that view. In a May 2000 legal opinion, DOI attorneys wrote that MICSA has the effect of strengthening tribal jurisdiction "rather than destroying the sovereignty of the tribes."

But EPA disagreed with DOI's interpretation and said the state has a "strong interest in regulating discharges to waters in Maine." Even though two rivers -- the Penobscot and the St. Croix -- flow into tribal lands, officials said discharges from them do not qualify as "internal tribal matters" that would normally be free from state control.

"EPA recognizes that regulation of discharges into these rivers is vitally important to the southern tribes, but ... water quality in these rivers is also vitally important to the state and its non-tribal member citizens," the decision stated.

In total, 21 facilities that require permits under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) were at issue in the dispute. Several belong to the paper companies that the tribes were battling.

Two of the facilities are tribal wastewater systems. The EPA said discharges from these facilities qualify as "internal tribal matters" and would not be subject to the state program.

Also not included are lands held in trust for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs. EPA said these "northern tribes" will remain under federal protection.

Relevant Documents:
EPA Federal Register Notice | PDF version

Relevant Links:
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System -
Penobscot Nation -
Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point -
Passamaquoddy Tribe, Indian Township -

Related Stories:
Maine tribes march for sovereignty (5/24)
Maine tribes to hand over documents (5/21)
Maine tribes cite industry pressure (5/13)
Maine tribes agreed to state oversight (4/12)
Supreme Court declines tribal cases (2/20)
Today's actions by Supreme Court (2/19)
Supreme Court docket shaping up (2/19)
Supreme Court declines tribal cases (2/20)
Supreme Court rejects tribal privacy case (11/14)
EPA foresees long battle over tribal water authority (11/14)
Maine tribes lose paper case appeal (6/21)
Maine tribes want document case reviewed (5/17)
US sues to compensate Penobscot Nation (5/3)
Tribes ordered to release some documents (5/2)
Court rejects challenge to tribal authority (4/17)
Maine tribes await EPA decision (4/17)
Go directly to jail, do not collect sovereignty... (2/7)
Leaders pledge support of Maine tribes (11/17)
Tribal leaders ordered arrested (11/10)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye endorses Hillary Clinton (10/21)
Twenty-Nine Palms Band disputes 'Trump, You're Fired' story (10/21)
Repatriation review committee announces additional meetings (10/21)
Native Sun News Today: Ping-pong continues in #NoDAPL case (10/21)
Lakota Country Times: 'Reel Jobs' school nurtures Lakota talent (10/21)
James Giago Davies: Drugs and crime overrun our reservations (10/21)
Dana Lone Hill: Becoming a grandmother is life's highest honor (10/21)
Misty Perkins: Indigenous voices are lost in colonial translation (10/21)
John Leguizamo: Who was 'mistreating indigenous people' first? (10/21)
Bureau of Land Management confirms repatriation for ancestor (10/21)
Cowlitz Tribe opposes coal export terminal on aboriginal lands (10/21)
Crow Tribe signs agreement to resolve long-running tax dispute (10/21)
National Indian Gaming Commission refutes online gaming claim (10/21)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation stays quiet on long-delayed casino plan (10/21)
Alaska tribes enter new era with first land-into-trust application (10/20)
Native leaders in Alaska endorse Hillary Clinton in historic move (10/20)
Bureau of Indian Affairs finishes update to model juvenile code (10/20)
Utah group aims to elevate Native issues in an unusual election (10/20)
Chemehuevi Tribe secures approval of HEARTH Act regulations (10/20)
Poarch Band of Creek Indians can't be sued for firing employee (10/20)
Native Sun News Today: Oglala veteran shot and killed by police (10/20)
Lakota Country Times: Founders of annual Spiritual Run honored (10/20)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Education system diminishes our people (10/20)
Brandon Ecoffey: It's business as usual for South Dakota's GOP (10/20)
Morgan Rodman: Federal agencies work to protect treaty rights (10/20)
Mary Annette Pember: First baby born at water protector camp (10/20)
Duane Yazzie: Spirituality prevails as #NoDAPL fight continues (10/20)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opens reservation to #NoDAPL camp (10/20)
Haskell University confirms president is still under investigation (10/20)
Agua Caliente Band back in federal court to defend water rights (10/20)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe removes members amid per cap woes (10/20)
Ho-Chunk Nation moves forward with $33M expansion at casino (10/20)
Cowlitz Tribe announces more executives for fast-rising casino (10/20)
Wilton Rancheria continues to make progress on casino project (10/20)
Agency shifts course as ancient remains slated for repatriation (10/19)
Navajo Nation opposes bill that reduces share of trust revenues (10/19)
Doug George-Kanentiio: A voice for residential school survivors (10/19)
Native Sun News Today: LNI hosts girls volleyball tournament (10/19)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe voters send message (10/19)
Editorial: Republicans in South Dakota embrace Monster Trump (10/19)
Vi Waln: Water protector camps overflow with spiritual energy (10/19)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.