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Oklahoma bill would cut tribes out of environmental policy-making process

BY ANDREW KNITTLE Published: March 5, 2012

A bill working its way through the state Legislature would remove tribes from the official environmental policy-making process — something one eastern Oklahoma tribe isn't happy about.

Sen. Greg Treat, who authored the bill, said it would do “nothing to prohibit the tribes from having input in environmental policies,” though.

“It just acknowledges what is already in federal law — that the state of Oklahoma has priority in setting environmental policy that impacts Oklahomans and Oklahoma energy producers and energy transmitters,” Treat said. “The law still allows consultation, it just does not allow tribal laws to be considered by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to increase cost on ratepayers, or tribes to block the construction or upgrades to a refinery.”

The Oklahoma City-based senator says the Environmental Protection Agency, which he accused of having a “liberal agenda,” often will deal directly with the dozens of tribes in Oklahoma, essentially “backdooring” clean air standards and injection well regulations, among other things.

“My message to tribal members and all Oklahomans is that this bill is about common sense and stopping the overreach and burden of the federal government,” Treat said. “I believe any form of government — whether it be tribal, local, state, or federal — has a tendency to want to increase its power and control over citizens.

“The EPA's effort to use the tribes as a vehicle to expand their power is a perfect example of this impulse.”

Treat's bill was approved by the Senate and is headed next to the House Energy Committee for possible approval.

Osage Nation objects

Chris White, an Osage Nation spokesman, said he's not surprised the bill didn't draw more criticism from the nearly 40 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma.

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