S. Utes first to run air-quality program

EPA approves local tribe’s Clean Air Act

O, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe became the nation’s first Native American tribe to run its own Clean Air Act program.

After years of work to create a set of air-quality regulations for large sources of air emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced approval of the tribe’s rules.

Jim Martin, a Denver-based regional administrator for the EPA, called the approval “a significant step forward” for the tribe and the environment.

“EPA’s approval reflects the tribe’s exceptional effort to build the expertise and capacity to manage air quality on the reservation,” Martin said in a news release.

The nearly decade-long effort to obtain the EPA’s permission to implement the program on the tribe’s more than 1,000 square miles of reservation land near Ignacio involved “extensive community and outreach” with the oil and gas industry, the state and communities in the region, officials said. Before approval, the EPA was responsible for permitting projects within the bounds of the checker-board reservation with large sources of air emissions.

Tribal Chairman Jimmy Newton Jr. said in a news release the approval was envisioned by past tribal leaders, and the tribe is looking forward to administering the rules in a way that “ensures protection of the reservation airshed and contributes positively to regional air quality.”

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