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Northern Cheyenne Tribe receives EPA approval for eligibility to administer Clean Water Act programs

Release Date: 08/11/2006
Contact Information: Richard Mylott, 303 312-6654, mylott.richard@epa.gov; Judy Wong , 303 312-6364; Bill Wuerthele, 303 312-6943

EPA offers to facilitate resolution of broader water quality standard issues

{Denver, Colo. -- August 11, 2006} The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 has approved the Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s application for eligibility to administer the water quality standards and certification programs under the Clean Water Act. Additionally, EPA officials will meet with senior leaders of the Tribe, Montana, and Wyoming to assist in resolving broader issues pertaining to water quality standards in the region.

This approval of the Tribe’s Treatment as a State (TAS) application is not an approval or disapproval of the Tribe’s water quality standards. If and when the Tribe submits water quality standards to EPA, the Agency’s review will be a separate action. Today’s TAS approval acknowledges that the Tribe is eligible to submit its standards to EPA for review.

Robert E. Roberts, the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Denver office, approved the application.

“Today’s action in support of Tribal sovereignty is an important step forward,” Roberts said. “While the Northern Cheyenne Tribe has had a water quality program for more than 25 years, this approval will provide the Tribe with an additional opportunity to act as stewards of their own environment.”

Roberts noted that 37 Tribes across the nation have demonstrated the capacity to administer water quality standards programs and have been authorized by EPA to do so.

Roberts also indicated that he and his senior staff would be meeting within the next few days with leaders of the Tribe, and the State of Montana and Wyoming, to discuss opportunities for EPA to facilitate resolution of broader water quality issues in the region. While the Clean Water Act itself provides a mechanism to resolve disputes that may arise between a state and an Indian tribe as a result of federally-approved water quality standards on shared waters, EPA intends to take a proactive approach toward resolving issues pertaining to water quality standards among the Tribe and the states of Wyoming and Montana.

“EPA Region 8, with the support of EPA headquarters, intends to work with the States of Montana and Wyoming and with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in a collaborative manner that will, over time, involve a number of stakeholders – industry, irrigators, environmental groups, the Crow Tribe, and others – who have expressed their interest in the Tongue River,” said Roberts.

Roberts added, “We will support and facilitate efforts to resolve conflicts in a collaborative manner. We believe that the resolution of such conflicts can help meet the environmental protection goals of both the States and the Tribe.”

More information on Water Quality Standards.
Access the decision document on the Northern Cheyenne TAS approval. (Available the afternoon of August 11 at http://www.epa.gov/region8/water/wqs/nc.html)