indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
The University of Tulsa College of Law - Master's in Indian Law
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...
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:
Two more spills of oil from Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota (5/23)
Native woman in skirt and sandals wins ultramarathon in Mexico (5/23)
Brothers from Huichol Tribe murdered as drug war rages in Mexico (5/23)
Mississippi Choctaw citizens request vote on $25M casino project (5/23)
Documents show few meetings between Secretary Zinke and tribes (5/22)
Landowners on 2 reservations in Nebraska receive buy-back offers (5/22)
Human Rights Complaint: 'We are only letting the white people in' (5/22)
Mark Trahant: Funds for Indian health in danger under Republicans (5/22)
Cronkite News: Navajo Nation school works hard to teach language (5/22)
Harlan McKosato: DNA tests can't reveal your unique tribal history (5/22)
Gyasi Ross: Fired FBI director made sure Peltier remained in prison (5/22)
Tiffany Midge: A response to winning the cultural appropriation prize (5/22)
André Cramblit: Treasure your aunties and uncles for their histories (5/22)
Treaty tribes celebrate after court refuses to rehear salmon dispute (5/22)
Eastern Cherokee leaders open impeachment hearing against chief (5/22)
Top Interior nominee contradicts Trump on 'race' and tribal programs (5/19)
Arne Vainio: Expressing gratitude for the people we have around us (5/19)
Lawmakers dug deep to help North Dakota with #NoDAPL response (5/19)
Quapaw Tribe secures EPA grant for cleanup of contaminated lands (5/19)
Steven Newcomb: The racist and toxic roots of federal Indian policy (5/19)
Indian Country braces for worst with Trump's planned budget cuts (5/18)
Bipartisan task force announced to look into Indian Health Service (5/18)
Lawmakers push to renew Special Diabetes Program for Indians (5/18)
Albert Bender: Police slaughter of Native people rages unabated (5/18)
Steve Russell: There's a downside to impeaching Donald Trump (5/18)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe cannabis consultant goes on trial (5/18)
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe repays money to address federal audit (5/18)
House passes bill to extend federal recognition to Virginia tribes (5/18)
Kalispel Tribe using bottled water at casino after contamination (5/18)
Leech Lake Band wins approval to build new casino at new site (5/18)
Tohono O'odham Nation secures victory in long-running dispute (5/17)
Dakota Access seeks to intervene in Oglala Sioux Tribe's lawsuit (5/17)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves 3 bills at meeting (5/17)
Indian Health Service and 'high risk' tribal programs on agenda (5/17)
Bureau of Indian Affairs designates service area for Tejon Tribe (5/17)
Ruth Hopkins: Taxpayers footing $15M bill for DAPL private army (5/17)
Matthew Fletcher: Expect litigation after Supreme Court decision (5/17)
Alex Jacobs: Trump is starting to act like he's guilty of something (5/17)
Yakama Nation spars with county official over road resurfacing (5/17)
Spirit Lake Nation suspends referendum on liquor sales at casino (5/17)
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.