President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently overrode Congress by declaring a Wyoming town called Riverton a part of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The EPA made the decision last month along with the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice — it has angered many of Riverton’s citizens. Gov. Matt Mead said that by declaring Riverton was a part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, government agencies violated tribal boundaries set by Congress in 1905. He said, “My deep concern is about an administrative agency of the federal government altering a state’s boundary and going against over 100 years of history and law. This should be a concern to all citizens because, if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop?”
The San Francisco Gate reported, “The EPA addressed the reservation boundary issue in its decision last month that granted an application from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. The tribes had applied to have the reservation treated as a separate state under the federal Clean Air Act.”
Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael is asking the EPA to reconsider the ruling. In a statement, he wrote, “The EPA not only reached the wrong conclusion, but the agency also employed a fundamentally unfair and skewed process, to the detriment of the state and its citizens, in pursuit of its predetermined objective.”
Many of Riverton’s citizens feel that the EPA’s decision is unjust. Since the town has been turned over the tribes, it is no longer eligible to receive state services or local law enforcement.
Officials and citizens alike complain that the EPA was not diligent in communicating with the groups most impacted by the change. Senator Leland Christensen said, “This is an alarming action when you have a federal agency step in and start to undo congressional acts that has really been our history for 108 years … With the stroke of a pen without talking to the biggest groups impacted — and that would be the city of Riverton and the state of Wyoming.”
Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi and Mike Barrasso, with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, wrote in a statement, “The EPA’s decision has in effect overturned a law that has been governing land and relationships for more than 100 years. We are also very concerned about the political ramifications this decision could have for the tribes and the state of Wyoming.”
For now, Mead has ordered that state agencies and citizens go about “business as usual.”
We will keep you up-to-date on this situation as news breaks.