United States: Congressman Ruiz Collaborates With Indian Country To Address Environmental Injustice Concerns

Kayla Gebeck is a public affairs advisor at Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C., office.

(Pictured left to right: Chief Eric Thompson, St. Regis Mohawk; Lisa Evans, Earth Justice; and Congressman Raul Ruiz, D-CA)

Recognizing the disproportionate impact of environmental injustice in Indian Country and minority communities in general, Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-CA) held a roundtable on June 14 to hear directly from tribal leaders on ways that Congress can work collaboratively with tribes to overcome challenges faced in environmental mitigation efforts and raise awareness about the impacts that the development industry has on tribal lands, trust resources, and the health and well-being of tribal communities. Congressman Ruiz was joined by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CA), Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), Lisa Evans, Senior Administrative Counsel at Earthjustice, and representatives from the St. Regis Mohawk, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Navajo Nation.

Environmental Injustice in Indian Country

Weaved throughout each tribe's presentation was an absence of adequate and meaningful consultation, especially in the cases where off-reservation or off-territory development directly impacts on on-reservation resources; lack of adequate levels of funding to effectively monitor and mitigate pollutants; and the inability to successfully assert tribal priorities over existing funding resources.

The St. Regis Mohawk tribal leadership raised concerns about the impacts of two off-reservation Superfund sites and one area of environmental concern, which are located directly upstream and upwind from where the Mohawk people draw their drinking water and reside. Hazardous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls along with volatile organic compounds contaminating the air are leaving a toxic legacy and a disproportionately high prevalence of diabetes, thyroid disorders, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune disease, heart disease and cancers. Despite active tribal engagement with EPA, current methods for cleanup are insufficient and the recommendations of the St. Regis Mohawk to improve mitigation efforts have been disregarded.

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians raised concerns about the lack of consultation for off-reservation development projects that directly impact their resources. The Miccosukee are primarily concerned about private investments that would use large amounts of water and damage environmentally sensitive areas in the Florida Everglades. The Puyallup Tribe echoed the concerns of many Northwest Indian tribes about the need for meaningful consultation with the Army Corps of Engineers when it exercises permitting authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) or otherwise takes actions that would impact treaty-reserved fishing rights.

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska spoke the lack of consultation when it comes to including tribal insight on the development or mitigation practices of traditional territories and cultural sites. An example was given regarding the dredging of a portion of the Missouri River without any consultation with tribes, which resulted in significant damage to cultural and archaeological sites of various Great Plains area tribes.

The primary concern of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians is the increasing levels of mercury contaminants in freshwater fish in Minnesota, where the Red Lake Band runs the oldest freshwater fishery in the United States. These contaminants are the product of coal-fired plants globally and have been linked to brain and nerve damage resulting in state-wide consumption advisory warnings for children and women of child-bearing age. Given that roughly half of the Red Lake Band's population is under 21, and current data suggests that Band members consume fish up to 5 times more than the general population, it is important that the Red Lake Band is able to effectively monitor and mitigate the adverse impacts of mercury contaminants to protect the Band's tradition of subsistence living, the health and well-being of Red Lake Band members, and the economic security of the Band.

The Navajo Nation spoke to the unacceptable prevalence of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Reservation, which contaminates drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. While the Navajo Nation has worked closely with EPA and other agencies including BIA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, and the Indian Health Service since 2007, uranium contamination is widespread and will take many years to address completely. Without adequate resources and continued relations, the Navajo Nation is unable to protect the well-being of its members.

Moving Forward

Tribal leaders and representatives expressed their support for Congressman Grijalva's RESPECT Act, which aims to codify procedures for effective consultation and coordination by federal agencies with federally recognized tribes. Additionally, tribes proposed an increase to the tribal set-aside for EPA Section 106 CWA funding; the extension of self-governance to relevant EPA programs in an effort to streamline existing funding and provide tribes with the authority to better assert tribal priorities; and requested support for a more formal investigation on the sufficiency of current EPA funding, mitigation efforts, and programs impacting Indian Country. Tribal leaders look forward to continue working with Congressman Ruiz and members of Congress on solidifying pathways to address these concerns.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions