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U.S. EPA grants three Southern California tribes approval to implement water, air programs

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April 12, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has recently approved three Southern California tribes’ applications to implement certain programs under federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act regulations.

The EPA approved “Treatment in a similar manner as a State” applications for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Riverside County, Calif., and the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians in San Diego County, Calif., under the federal Clean Water Act’s Water Quality Standards and Certification programs. The EPA approved a Clean Air Act application for the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians in San Diego County, Calif.

“These tribes now have the authority to implement various federal air and water programs important to tribal stewardship,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Adoption of these environmental programs will allow these tribes to better protect their air and water resources.”

Strauss presented representatives from the three tribes with Certificates of Achievement at Region 9’s Regional Tribal Operations Committee meeting held April 11-12th in San Francisco.

The Morongo and Rincon Bands can now develop water quality standards for waters within their reservations, like the process used by states under Sections 303 and 401 of the Clean Water Act. All water quality standards developed by the tribes must be submitted to EPA for approval and must satisfy all CWA regulatory requirements, including public comment. Important waterways on Morongo and Rincon reservations include Deep Canyon Creek, Lake Morongo, San Luis Rey River and Paradise Creek. Sixteen tribes in the Pacific Southwest Region, and 57 nationally, have attained this authority.

Last month EPA approved the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians’ application for “Treatment in a similar manner as a State” under the federal Clean Air Act. The La Jolla Tribe is now eligible to receive notifications when local entities issue permits and to petition EPA when air pollution from nearby areas affects the reservation. In addition, the tribe is eligible to receive grants to assist with air pollution planning and control under Section 105 of the Clean Air Act. The La Jolla Band joins 11 other tribes in the region with this Clean Air Act authority.

Several federal environmental laws authorize EPA to treat eligible federally recognized Indian tribes in a similar manner as a state for implementing and managing certain environmental programs. The basic requirements for applying for TAS are that the tribe must be federally recognized; have a governing body carrying out substantial governmental duties and powers; have appropriate authority; and the capability to carry out the functions of the program. EPA carefully reviewed the tribes’ applications, and all comments received after holding opportunities for input from neighboring jurisdictions, local governments and the public. The EPA has determined the tribes met the necessary requirements and approved the applications for TAS to administer the various water and air programs.

For more information on “Treatment in a similar manner as a State,” and for a list of tribes with the designation, please visit: www.epa.gov/wqs-tech/epa-approvals-tribal-water-quality-standards

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