The Control of Air Pollution on Indian Reservations

By Reitze, Arnold W., Jr. | Environmental Law, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

The Control of Air Pollution on Indian Reservations


Reitze, Arnold W., Jr., Environmental Law


 I.  INTRODUCTION  II.  FEDERAL REGULATION OF AIR QUALITY IN INDIAN COUNTRY      A. EPA's Federal Implementation Plans      B. EPA's PSD Permit Program      C. EPA's Nonattainment Program      D. EPA's Operating Permit Program      E. Minor Source Permit Programs      F. General Permits  III. TRIBAL REGULATION OF AIR QUALITY      A. Tribes as States      B. Tribal Implementation Plans (TIPs)      C. The Jurisdictional Reach of a TIP         D. Delegation  IV.  OIL & GAS REGULATION IN INDIAN COUNTRY      A. NSPS/HAPs      B. Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New and         Modified Sources      C. The 2016 FIP      D. EPA 's GHG Reporting Requirements      E. Bureau of Land Management Regulations  V.   Air Pollution Control in Utah's Indian Country  VI.  Utah's Uintah Basin  VII. CONCLUSION  APPENDIX 

I. INTRODUCTION

Changes in oil and gas production technology in recent years led to a boom in domestic oil and gas production. Between 2010 and 2014, petroleum production increased 59% and natural gas production increased by 22%. (1) While this production has reduced the nation's dependence on imported fuel, it has resulted in serious air pollution problems developing in sparsely populated oil and gas production areas of the western United States including Indian lands. (2) The lack of effective air pollution controls, particularly on existing oil and gas well operations, has made it difficult to control emissions from this industry. This Article looks at the efforts being made to deal with air quality issues arising in Indian country that involve a legal regimen that differs from the program applicable to the rest of the nation. It examines the air pollution control program applicable to Indian lands in Utah where approximately 40% of the active oil wells and 2.4% of the gas wells are located in Indian reservations. (3)

II. FEDERAL REGULATION OF AIR QUALITY IN INDIAN COUNTRY

Indian lands in 2014 produced 1.8% of U.S. crude oil, 0.4% of the natural gas liquids, and 1.0% of the natural gas production. (4) Royalty income from energy and mineral resources in 2015 is projected to exceed $1 billion, and is the largest source of revenue generated from Indian Trust lands. (5) Moreover, the energy industry is a major source of employment responsible for an estimated 96,080 jobs. (6) Because energy production from Indian lands is concentrated in the West, the local economic benefits are significant. Nevertheless, some Indian officials believe onerous restrictions by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are responsible for the relatively small percentage of domestic production from Indian lands. (7) Regardless of whether changes in regulations would increase production, the current level of oil and gas production in Indian country is contributing to high concentrations of ambient ozone that threatens public health and the environment. (8)

Indian tribes have inherent sovereignty under the United States Constitution. (9) Nevertheless, they are considered domestic dependent nations, and the Federal government is the trustee, which results in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) playing an important role in regulating air pollution in Indian country. (10) The present federal policy is to encourage Indian tribes to manage their land and resources (11) subject to restrictions imposed by Congress. (12)

The United States government is the trustee for the 566 tribal entities in the forty-eight contiguous states and Alaska that are recognized by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. (13) A large number of the tribes are in Alaska because each native village is considered a tribal entity. (14) An Indian tribe "means an Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian tribe pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994. …

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