Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Maine to sue EPA over tribal pollution and tribal rights

In a move that surprised nobody, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that she will be suing to overturn the agency's recent order to tighten water quality standards in Maine's Indian territories.

The dispute is ultimately about tribal rights in Maine, not the environment.

As previously reported, the EPA is acting to enforce Maine tribe's alleged right to sustenance fish on their territory, an action the agency says would endanger human health under Maine's proposed water quality standards. Gov. Paul LePage, an ally of the paper industry, called the decision "outrageous" and claimed it was made to retaliate against Maine for bucking federal edicts. Mills, in her letter to the EPA, says the tribe has no such right and that federal law clearly gives Maine authority over all environmental regulation on Indian reservations here.

The tribes are already at odds with the state over saltwater fishing, the applicaibility of the federal Violence Against Women Act to their territories, and other issues, and have called on Congress to intervene.

For additional background on the history of Maine's tribal-state relations, consider "Unsettled", the 31-part Press Herald series on the Passamaquoddy, which appeared in the paper last summer. (It's also available as an e-book here.)

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