Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Federal Indian Law and Policy

Natural Resource and Environmental Laws

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The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA):

NEPA requires the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) for any proposed major federal action that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. While the statutory language of NEPA does not mention Indian tribes, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations and guidance do require agencies to contact Indian tribes and provide them with opportunities to participate at various stages in the preparation of an EA or EIS. CEQ has issued a Memorandum for Tribal Leaders encouraging tribes to participate as cooperating agencies with federal agencies in NEPA reviews. (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

Snapshot of the Environmental Protection Agency's Laws and Indian Program Implementation:

Some environmental laws explicitly authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to treat Indian tribes as states for purposes of becoming eligible to receive grants, and to manage programs for which states may also be eligible. The Clean Water Act Section 518 (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1377, the Safe Drinking Water Act Section 1451 (SDWA), 42 U.S.C. 300j-11, and the Clean Air Act Section 301(d) (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7601(d). all fall in this category. EPA issued a series of rules for implementing tribal provisions of the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts between 1988 and 1994, and issued the Final Tribal Air Rule in February of 1998, specifying those provisions of the Clean Air Act for which tribes may be treated in the same manner as states. Other statutes specify some role for tribes under particular provisions. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. 136(u) and the Comprehensive Environmental Recovery, Compensation, and Liability Act Section 126 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9626, fall into this category.

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