Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 7, 2020

U.S. EPA seizes control of Oklahoma Indian lands for hazardous dumping and fracking

U.S. EPA seizes control of Oklahoma Indian lands for 
hazardous dumping and fracking

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

It is more race-baiting. The tribes impacted by the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision and all tribes in the state must stand together. Our very existence is at stake. If Stitt has his way the fossil fuel industry will line his pockets with our lifeblood. -- Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Trump administration's EPA granted the state of Oklahoma wide-ranging environmental regulatory control on nearly all tribal lands in the state, stripping dozens of tribes of their sovereignty over critical environmental issues, Ecowatch reports.

The EPA action infuriated Oklahoma’s Ponca Tribe. Casey Camp-Horinek, Environmental Ambassador and Elder and Hereditary Drumkeeper Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, provided the following statement to TYT:

“After over 500 years of oppression, lies, genocide, ecocide, and broken treaties, we should have expected the EPA ruling in favor of racist Governor Stitt of Oklahoma, yet it still stings. Under the Trump administration, destroying all environmental protection has been ramped up to give the fossil fuel industry life support as it takes its last dying breath. Who suffers the results? Everyone and everything! Who benefits? Trump and his cronies, climate change deniers like Governor Stitt, Senators Inhofe and Langford, who are financially supported by big oil and gas. I am convinced that we must fight back against this underhanded ruling. In the courts, on the frontlines and in the international courts, LIFE itself is at stake.”

Democracy Now! said that the Environmental Protection Agency granted Oklahoma environmental regulatory control of nearly all tribal lands in Oklahoma, rolling back sovereign rights for dozens of tribes. The move effectively cancels out many rights that would have been gained after a landmark Supreme Court ruling earlier this year asserted about half of Oklahoma remains Native American land, recognizing a 19th century U.S. treaty with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. 

Ecowatch reported that an October 1 letter from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler granted a request by Republican Gov. J. Kevin Stitt for control of environmental regulations on tribal land on a wide range of issues, including: 

-- Dumping hazardous waste—including formaldehyde; mercury; lead; asbestos; toxic air pollutants; per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); pesticides; the herbicide glyphosate, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—on tribal lands.

-- Underground Injection Control, the EPA's fracking permitting system.

-- Protecting major agricultural polluters, including large-scale factory farming operations.

Ponca Tribal Environmental Ambassador, Casey Camp Horinek said, “The actions of Governor Stitt are not surprising. The State of Oklahoma was founded on racism, and Stitt follows a long line of governors who have considered tribes sacrifice zones for fossil fuel industry profits.”

“Tribes across the state have been targeted for environmental genocide at the hands of the oil and gas industry, enabled by state agencies and government officials, including the Governor’s office,” added Horinek, “and it all comes down to money.”

“Tribes are already sovereign, despite decades of attempts to diminish our authority over our own lands to protect our communities and make laws governing clean water, air and soil,” Horinek said.

In 2017 the Ponca banned fracking and became the first tribe to pass a statute recognizing the Rights of Nature to be free from fossil fuel contamination by asserting that ecosystems, including humans, have legal standing in a court of law.

“It is more race-baiting,” says Horinek. “The tribes impacted by the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision and all tribes in the state must stand together. Our very existence is at stake. If Stitt has his way the fossil fuel industry will line his pockets with our lifeblood.”

U.S. EPA set secret deadline

Earlier, in September, TYT reported that he Trump administration’s top environmental official has set a Monday deadline for Oklahoma tribes to weigh in on a proposal that could let the state dump hazardous waste -- including everything from mercury to cancer-causing PCBs -- on tribal lands, but at least one tribe told TYT on Friday that they hadn’t been notified. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not immediately respond when asked to provide evidence that it had publicized or notified any Oklahoma tribes about the deadline.

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