EPA: The Abuse of Power
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done immense good.
If not for the EPA, the physical environmental of the United States today would be far worse, especially air quality and industrial pollution.
For that Americans are grateful.
The EPA that cleaned up the environment is not the same EPA that exists today. Today’s EPA oversteps its mandate. It wields power it was never intended to have.
That was proved once again by a December EPA ruling where it redefined the borders of an American Indian reservation.
Since when did redrawing reservation boundaries become the responsibility of the EPA?
Two tribes – The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho – applied to the EPA for legal ‘treatment as a state’ (TAS) status for purposes of monitoring air quality. They make up the Wind River Indian Reservation located in a remote area about 125 miles east of Casper, Wyoming.
The tribes are concerned that emissions from Jonah Field, a natural gas field within 50 miles of the reservation, might be affecting their air quality. If so, TAS status would provide them protections under the Clean Air Act.
Providing TAS status for the purpose of monitoring air quality makes sense. It’s a legitimate function of the EPA. Everyone should be protected against harmful environmental damage. That is what the EPA does best.
However, the EPA went further than granting TAS status. It redefined the borders of the reservation.
Questions of legal and moral authority
Native Americans have been been cheated by Europeans for hundreds of years.
During the great western migration the United States government went to war against the tribes, took their lands and signed peace treaties with them that corralled Indians into reservations, often far from their ancestral homes.
In times past that was considered perfectly legal. The U.S. government assumed responsibility for the conquered tribes. It bestowed the reservations nation status. Ever since, the federal government has provided Native Americans housing, education and managed their natural resources.
In most decisions, Native Americans were given the short end of the stick. That is wrong. Full reparations for wrongdoing are long overdo.
In steps the EPA
Once again the Obama administration thinks it can ignore the law of the land when it suits their agenda
– Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, Newsmax, 1/16/2014
In it’s EPA application, tribal authorities defined its Reservation borders predating the Treaty of 1906. The treaty ceded Reservation territory to white settlement in three communities – Riverton, Kinnear, and Pavillion. Tribal authorities, apparently, no longer accept that treaty.
In researching its TAS status decision it said, “because EPA was aware of existing disagreements regarding the Reservation boundary, EPA exercised its discretion” to make its own determination of the Reservation’s boundary.
EPA asked the Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior to render a legal opinion on the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
In her legal opinion, Solicitor Hilary Tompkins said the Treaty of 1906 did not actually change the Reservation border. According to Newsmax, that reversed previous court decisions.
The EPA chose to accept the Solicitor opinion and redefined the boundary of the Reservation to include those communities in its final decision granting TAS status to the Wind River tribes.
That reignited a long-standing firestorm over the Reservation’s modern boundaries, along with all its legal ramifications.
For example, because of the EPA decision, the Casper Star Tribune reports that “Joan Evans, Director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, said the state would no longer have jurisdiction to conduct audits to assure Riverton businesses comply with worker compensation and unemployment laws.”
Dean Finkenbinder, Wyoming’s Dept. of Agriculture consumer health services division manager said his agency could no longer inspect restaurants that handle food. Without inspections, those businesses may have to close.
Twenty five other state authorities issued statements how their jurisdictions are affected by the EPA ruling.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead asked his attorney general to challenge the decision and defend the current Reservation borders.
The EPA turned a legitimate environmental issue into an illegitimate political one.
Unrelated to a decision allowing the tribes to regulate their own air quality, the EPA unnecessarily redefined the borders of the Wind River Indian Reservation to help tribal leaders reestablish claim to land sold by the federal government in the Treaty of 1906.
The Shoshone and Arapaho may or may not have legitimate claim to the three towns. That is an important issue, but far beyond the jurisdiction of the EPA.
It’s not the first time the EPA has been accused of overstepping its mandate. It isn’t the first time the Obama Administration has been accused of using the EPA to advance a political purpose.
The problem with large bureaucracies is that it’s far to easy for nameless, unaccountable autocrats to overextend and abuse their authority under Executive Branch direction.
That is what happened with the IRS. That is what is happening now with the EPA.