EPA Approves First Ever Clean Air Act Plan for Reducing Air Pollution Developed by a Tribe; Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Emerges as Environmental Leader
(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has become the first tribe nationally to receive approval of a plan to protect air quality under the federal Clean Air Act. The plan, formally known as a Tribal Implementation Plan (TIP), is a set of federally enforceable regulatory programs that identify how a tribe will achieve and maintain standards for principal air pollutants identified by EPA.
“By formally adopting this comprehensive plan to combat air pollution, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has demonstrated environmental leadership in the greatest of Akwesasne traditions,” said Alan J. Steinberg, Regional Administrator after he signed the milestone document on October 22, 2007. "Particulate matter, ozone-forming nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants, may trigger asthma, lead to serious respiratory illnesses and other harmful health effects. In order to continue the progress toward healthy air, we will need more leadership like that of this tribe, because air pollution knows no borders.”
“Federal approval of our TIP is a significant achievement for the tribe since it signals both our commitment and longstanding efforts to protect and preserve our environment, including the air. This is especially important since we have seen marked increases in recent years in the incidence of asthma and upper respiratory illnesses in our people. As Mohawks, we are obligated to uphold the highest environmental standards for future generations. We must also credit our stalwart team in the Tribe’s Environment Division for leading the charge in this area,” the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council said in a statement.
A tribal implementation plan is part of a broader tribal air quality management program that may include programs to enforce limits on air pollutants, monitor air quality, inventory emission sources, issue operating permits for facilities, and address indoor air pollution. In this case, the environmental programs included in the tribe’s plan cover air quality standards for sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and other sources. It also includes measures to deal with permitting, open burning, and other enforcement activities.
Under the provisions of the Clean Air Act, tribal nations that meet eligibility criteria can be treated in the same manner as a state for the purpose of developing clean air plans. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe met the required criteria for developing a plan to protect the air quality within the exterior boundaries of the reservation. In 2007, the St. Regis met all the necessary criteria for EPA to approve the tribal plan by completing the public hearings required for the adoption of the environmental plan.
Located in northern-most New York State and bisected by the United States-Canada border, the Mohawk Territory is home to approximately 10,000 people. The tribe promotes lifestyles that respect, protect and enhance the environment for “the next seven generations at Akwesasne.” As a result, the tribe has one of the most advanced environment protection divisions of any on the continent.
In 2007, the tribe worked in partnership with the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, which together received an EPA Environmental Quality Award for its environmental accomplishments including its initiatives to plant 33,000 trees, of which 15,000 are Black Ash, scientific research, information dissemination and partnership building. Restoration activities assist in controlling greenhouse gases while providing materials for traditional medicine and basket making.
To view the Tribal Implementation Plan, please visit: http://www.regulations.gov. For more information on the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the EPA Tribal Program, visit http://www.epa.gov/tribalportal/index.htm.
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