Native Village Youth and Education News
October, 2009


Tribe prevails in air quality fight with MichIGAN
By JOHN FLESHER,0,2265346.story
Condensed by Native Village

Wisconsin: A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a Wisconsin-based Indian tribe in a 16-year dispute with Michigan over air quality standards.

The EPA  [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] had granted the Forest County Potawatomi reservation the highest level of protection allowed under the federal Clean Air Act.  Michigan challenged the ruling. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case, saying the state lacked standing to contest the federal agency's decision.

"This is a great victory," said Philip Shopodock, chairman of the Potawatomi tribe. "Pure air and pure water are essential to our culture and our beliefs. We must protect our home for future generations."

The Forest County Potawatomi are located in northeast Wisconsin on the Michigan state line. They are among five tribes that have received Class I air quality status from EPA. They filed for the Class 1 status in 1993.

 Michigan and Wisconsin objected and requested mediation. They feared the designation would hurt the area's economic development.

While the tribe later settled with Wisconsin, talks with Michigan broke down. The EPA was then asked to impose a decision. But Michigan said the EPA's procedures were flawed and asked the appeals court to intervene. They also complained that EPA standards for Michigan's polluters are tougher than Wisconsin's. True, the court said, but that's because Wisconsin and the Potawatomi had already settled their dispute..

"Michigan had access to the very same dispute resolution opportunity, but it failed to come to an agreement" with the tribe, the court said. The standards EPA imposed are typical in areas with the top-level air quality status, it said.

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