State officials fear problems from EPA decision to grant status to Pawnee tribe

Saturday, November 20th 2004, 4:13 pm
By: News On 6

The Environmental Protection Agency and tribes dismissed concerns by state and industry officials that the EPA's decision to grant ``treatment as a state'' to the Pawnee Nation could set a precedent that could stifle future economic growth.

Earlier this month, the Pawnee Nation became the first Oklahoma tribe to gain state status from the EPA. The designation allows the tribe to manage environmental programs and have control over water quality on tribal lands.

Tribes in other states have been given regulatory control over air- and water-quality standards, but there are nearly 40 federally recognized Indian tribes in Oklahoma.

The possibility of more tribes attaining the status has some officials fearing that a mishmash of environmental laws will be created and present new challenges for industries doing business in the state.

``It raises the possibility of multiple conflicting and morphing regulatory schemes in the state, said Oklahoma Energy Secretary David Fleischaker. ``It's pretty clear to me that everybody wants to avoid that outcome.''

There are eight to 12 other tribes, including the Cherokee and Quapaw, in Oklahoma which have an interest in the state designation, EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene said.

In other states, when such a status has been granted to several tribes, the tribes work well with government officials to ensure standards are compatible, Greene said. All entities are required to meet federal environmental standards, he added.