Friday, February 6, 2015

In victory for tribes, feds step in to overrule Maine water quality rules

In today's Portland Press Herald I reported on a potentially game changing ruling by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in regards to Maine's jurisdiction over Indian lands.

Since the historic 1980 Maine Indian Settlement Acts, the state has asserted broad jurisdiction over the tribes including environmental rules and the federal government has generally stood aside. But earlier this week the EPA ruled that Maine's proposed water quality standards violate the Settlement Acts by not ensuring that fish on the reservations are safe to eat in quantity.

The Penobscot Nation says the decision is "historic" as it suggests the federal government may take a more active role as the tribes' trustee. The Passamaquoddy did not respond by press time yesterday, but released a press release today expressing satisfaction with the ruling.

Last year I wrote a 31-part series in the Press Herald on the Passamaquoddy and their fraught relationship with Maine and their own leaders. It's also available as an ebook (free, even, for subscribers.)

[Update, 3/22/15: Maine will sue EPA over the ruling, which Gov. LePage has said is "outrageous."]

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