EPA Proposes to Withdraw and Reconsider 2020 Decision on State of Oklahoma’s Regulatory Authority Within Indian Country

Announcement follows EPA’s review of prior administration’s decision and reflects input received during 2021 consultation with Oklahoma Tribal Nations

WASHINGTON (Dec. 22, 2021) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is proposing to withdraw and reconsider the Agency’s decision from October 1, 2020, granting the State of Oklahoma’s request to extend its EPA-approved environmental regulatory programs into certain areas of Indian country within Oklahoma. The State’s request had come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, a landmark decision for Tribes clarifying that Indian reservation land in eastern Oklahoma had never been disestablished and remained Indian country under federal law.  Today’s decision was made after careful review of the 2020 action and extensive consultation with the 38 Oklahoma Tribal nations this year.

“Our sovereign Tribal partners continue to have significant concerns with EPA’s previous decision and the consultation process used in reaching that decision,” said Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs Jane Nishida. “Today’s action reflects careful consideration of their concerns and our commitment to ensuring robust consultation on all policy deliberations affecting Tribal nations. EPA appreciates the invaluable input we received from Oklahoma Tribes this year and looks forward to continuing dialogue with all parties to inform an effective and durable framework for environmental protection within Indian country.”

“I thank the Oklahoma Tribes for engaging with EPA on this issue over the past year,” said Region 6 Deputy Regional Administrator David Gray. “This consultation provided true meaning to the government-to-government relationship that the EPA has with our Tribal partners.”

Today’s proposal to withdraw and reconsider the October 2020 decision is the result of review by EPA under President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, which directs federal agencies to ensure actions taken during the past four years are consistent with our commitment to advancing environmental justice. The action was also taken as a result of the renewed, extensive consultation between EPA and the Oklahoma Tribal nations, and is consistent with the President’s Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships.

In June 2021, EPA initiated a renewed consultation and coordination effort with Oklahoma Tribal nations to allow for meaningful input on the State of Oklahoma’s July 22, 2020 request, which was made under Section 10211(a) of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (SAFETEA). EPA offered consultation to all 38 Oklahoma Tribes and hosted two consultation calls open to all Tribes. In addition, EPA leadership met with eight individual Tribes to receive their consultation input. While EPA had previously consulted with Oklahoma Tribes following receipt of the State’s request, the consultation period during the previous administration was abbreviated — lasting less than a month.

EPA is seeking comment on the proposed withdrawal and reconsideration by January 31, 2022. Concurrent with the comment period, EPA will offer continued consultation to all Oklahoma Tribal nations. The proposed withdrawal and reconsideration will be conducted consistent with the applicable provision of SAFETEA. While the process is ongoing, the State’s program authority will remain in place, as currently provided under the October 2020 decision.

The notice of proposed withdrawal and reconsideration is available here: https://www.epa.gov/ok/safetea-proposed-withdrawal-and-reconsideration-and-supporting-information

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