indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
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 - http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes
Penobscot Nation - http://www.penobscotnation.org
Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point - http://www.wabanaki.com
Passamaquoddy Tribe, Indian Township - http://www.peopleofthedawn.com

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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: IHS hospital at Pine Ridge undergoes review (7/25)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Group disturbs tranquility at Bear Butte (7/25)
Indian Health Service discloses privacy breach of patient data (7/25)
BIA extends comment period on federal recognition regulation (7/25)
Navajo Nation president calling for FBI probe of brutal murders (7/25)
Jennie Stockle: Justice for victims of Cedarville mass shooting (7/25)
John Christian Hopkins: Waiting for Belgian waffles at Denny's (7/25)
Steven Pevar: Indian chldren are being taken from their homes (7/25)
IHS pays $53M to settle another contract support cost dispute (7/25)
Shinnecock Nation asserts control over tobacco amid pressure (7/25)
Four sentenced for stealing HHS funds from Oglala Sioux Tribe (7/25)
Unsettled: BIA questions Passamaquoddy forest management (7/25)
ASU News: First graduates of Indian studies master's program (7/25)
Blog: Tanka Fund aims to grow Indian Country's bison economy (7/25)
Opinion: A troubling relationship with Native peoples in Canada (7/25)
Opinion: Auction of tribal property in France sets bad precedent (7/25)
Puyallup Tribe cancels upcoming Ted Nugent concerts at casino (7/25)
Mayor gives conflicting view on Tohono O'odham Nation casino (7/25)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe plans to start work at gaming site (7/25)
Pojoaque Pueblo defends provisions in proposed gaming deal (7/25)
Iipay Nation puts Internet gaming servers on Mohawk reserve (7/25)
Native Sun News: Cobell beneficiaries still waiting on payment (7/24)
Navajo Nation president to discuss brutal murders with mayor (7/24)
NCAI President Cladoosby offers cedar hat to BIA's Washburn (7/24)
Woman waiting in line at SCIA hearing reportedly had bedbugs (7/24)
S.E. Ruckman: Tribal members share frustrations on IHS care (7/24)
Mark Rogers: System exploits misery of our nation's veterans (7/24)
Fort Belknap Tribes depend on revenue from Internet lending (7/24)
Oglala Sioux Tribe still working on plan for legal alcohol sales (7/24)
Two Native girls charged with assault for hockey game brawl (7/24)
Chickasaw Nation welcomes public to new community center (7/24)
Oregon tribe plans major development at historic village site (7/24)
Unsettled Ch. 26: Passamaquoddy dealings cloaked in secrecy (7/24)
KCAW: BLM supports Alaska Native corporation in land dispute (7/24)
Mixed martial arts fighter from Lumbee Tribe proud of heritage (7/24)
Granddaughter of former team owner condemns racist mascot (7/24)
Opinion: Chief Black Hawk was notorious leader of Ute people (7/24)
Remote tribes facing threats from drug trafficking and logging (7/24)
BIA indicates Tohono O'odham Nation can use land for gaming (7/24)
Pojoaque Pueblo wants to take state out of casino operations (7/24)
Iipay Nation started planning Internet poker games last year (7/24)
Fighter seriously injured at Trinidad Rancheria's casino event (7/24)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe concerned about potential gaming site (7/24)
Native Sun News: Great Plains tribes call for full contract funds (7/23)
Native Sun News: Candidate wants Obama to meet with tribes (7/23)
Audio: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on gaming (7/23)
President Obama nominates Jonodev Chaudhuri to lead NIGC (7/23)
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.