EPA finalizes rule on water quality and Tribal rights

The EPA finalized a rule establishing a national framework to protect water quality where Tribes hold treaty rights, ensuring consistent consideration of Tribal needs under the Clean Water Act.
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  • EPA released a rule clarifying how states and the EPA must consider Tribal rights when setting water quality standards.
  • The rule creates a consistent national framework for protecting water resources important to Tribes.
  • The rule will be applied locally to account for specific conditions and water rights while ensuring consistency.

May 3, 2024 — Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule designed to protect water quality in areas where Tribes hold treaty, statutory, or executive order rightsOpens in a new tab. to aquatic and aquatic-dependent resources. The rule provides a clear national framework for the EPA and states to follow when establishing Clean Water Act Water Quality Standards, advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to upholding the United States’ treaty and federal trust obligations to Tribes.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan statedOpens in a new tab., “President Biden is committed to ensuring that all people have access to clean and safe water. Strengthening our regulations to support Tribes and protect precious water resources is essential. With this action, EPA is establishing clear rules of the road that will support healthier Tribal communities. We look forward to partnering with Tribes and our state co-regulators to implement Clean Water Act protections consistent with Tribal treaty and reserved rights.”

The EPA previously addressed Tribal reserved rights on a case-by-case basis, resulting in uncertainty for Tribes, states, and those regulated by the Clean Water Act. EPA’s finalized rule provides clarity by revising the federal water quality standards regulation. The rule ensures water quality standards are established consistently nationwide, considering Clean Water Act-protected aquatic resources where Tribes hold and assert reserved rights.

National Tribal Water Council Chairman Ken Norton statedOpens in a new tab., “The Tribal Reserved Rights rule protects the rights of Tribal citizens, accorded by treaties, statutes, and other federal laws, to hunt, fish, and gather food in their usual and accustomed territories — including areas under state jurisdiction. When treaties are honored as the highest law of the land, as the Constitution directs, it is a victory for Tribes across the nation.”

The final rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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