Environment | Law

Maine asserts jurisdiction over tribal waters in case against EPA

The Penobscot River runs through the Penobscot Nation in Maine. Photo by Cheryl Daigle

Authorities in Maine filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, asserting jurisdiction over waters within Indian Country.

Attorney General Janet Mills and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patty Aho claim the state has authority to set standards under the Clean Water Act. But they say the EPA has failed to answer questions about jurisdiction in Indian Country.

"The federal First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 conclusively held that Maine’s environmental regulatory jurisdiction applies uniformly throughout Maine, including waters within Maine Indian territories," Mills said in a press release.

The Clean Water Act recognizes tribal authority to determine water standards that affect their lands. But the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2007 held that the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point and the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township ceded certain rights to the state under land claim settlements.

The complaint in Maine v. McCarthy was filed in federal court in Maine.

Get the Story:
Maine Sues EPA Over Water Quality Assessments on Tribal Lands (Maine Public Broadcasting Network 7/8)
Maine sues EPA over jurisdiction of water quality standards in Indian territories (The Bangor Daily News 7/9)

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