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After input from tribes, EPA pulls Trump Oklahoma’s environment order
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After input from tribes, EPA pulls Trump Oklahoma’s environment order

A dancer from Dancing Eagles from the Osage Creek and Creek tribes performs at an Indian relay race in Pawhuska (Oklahoma, U.S.A.), May 29, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

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WASHINGTON 22 December (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it would withdraw and reconsider a Trump administration grant to Oklahoma authority over environmental issues related to tribal land. After consulting with the 38 tribes, the agency said so.

The agency would reverse a decision made by Andrew Wheeler, then-EPA Administrator, in October 2020. This decision was made after Kevin Stitt, Republican Oklahoma Governor, requested that the state and not tribal nations be allowed to regulate environmental issues on land within historical tribal reservation boundaries.

Stitt’s had applied for the authority in July 2020, after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that large parts of the eastern state would be considered Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservations land. The McGirt-v. Oklahoma case was focused on the question of criminal jurisdiction.

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Assistant Administrator for International Affairs Jane Nishida said that concerns remain with our sovereign Tribal partners about EPAs previous decision as well as the consultation process used in reaching it. Today’s action reflects our careful consideration of their concerns, and our commitment to ensure robust consultation on all policy discussions affecting Tribal nations.”

In April, the Biden administration began informal discussions with Oklahoma tribes to determine if they should have more control over environmental regulations in the eastern half the oil-rich state. It began formal government-to-government tribal consultations in June.

Tribes complained that their concerns were not being addressed before the Trump administration made its decision.

Sources from the Oklahoma Republican government told Reuters that they were concerned about Oklahoma losing control over a large tax base and about regulation for natural resource extraction and industry if it remains under the jurisdiction of tribes.

Oklahoma’s largest oil and gas production is located in the western half of the state. However, some fields can be found in the eastern half of the state.

The EPA will accept comments on its withdrawal proposal up to Jan. 31, 2022.

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Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Editing by Aurora Ellis

Our Standards The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles

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