Abby Broyles, the Democratic candidate running against Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), responded to the news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had stripped away regulatory control from Oklahoma tribes by attacking him.
After TYT reported the EPA's actions on Monday, Broyles released a press release saying, “Jim Inhofe has been actively working against our tribes since 2005. It’s no coincidence his longtime staffer seized the opportunity to attack tribal sovereignty and ignore the Supreme Court ruling.”
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who on Oct. 1 authorized the takeover, worked for Inhofe for 14 years. Broyles' mention of 2005 refers to a two-paragraph rider attached to an 836-page transportation bill in 2005 that took away tribal control of environmental issues if requested by the state of Oklahoma.
With Wheeler's aid, Inhofe got the rider through. As part of a federal bill, it nullifies even the Supreme Court's McGirt v. Oklahoma decision that much of eastern Oklahoma is still tribal land because of previous treaties.
In her statement, Broyles added, “Our tribal nations’ sovereignty should be honored, and they should be allowed to work directly with the EPA instead of having extra hurdles placed in their way. It’s no surprise Jim would want to put this in front of state leaders, especially in the midst of their openly hostile relationship with the tribes right now…”
Rep. Nannette Barragan (D-CA), a leading pro-environment voice in Congress, responded to TYT's request for comment with a Tweet criticizing Wheeler for what she called his "attack on sovereignty."
The EPA has given Oklahoma regulatory control on environmental issues for nearly all tribal lands.— Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) October 6, 2020
@EPAAWheeler's attack on sovereignty shows the connection of environmental & #RacialJustice.
This strips tribal power to fight back against fossil fuel extraction & pollution. https://t.co/5Nr5uOLrjz
TYT contacted the offices of Inhofe and Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-OK), as well as the Trump and Biden campaigns, for comment on our story, but none responded.
Stitt was quoted Monday by The Hill, stating, “This approval helps to better protect public health and our environment by ensuring certainty and one consistent set of regulations for all citizens of Oklahoma, including those who are also citizens of one of Oklahoma’s federally recognized Tribes...”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. reportedly disagrees. The Hill quotes him saying, “Unfortunately, the governor’s decision to invoke a 2005 federal law ignores the longstanding relationships between state agencies and the Cherokee Nation. All Oklahomans benefit when the Tribes and state work together in the spirit of mutual respect and this knee-jerk reaction to curtail tribal jurisdiction is not productive…”
As TYT reported, the EPA itself acknowledged that tribes complained even before the new decision that they were not given enough time to weigh in fully. TYT's report generated significant reaction on Twitter, from politicians and environmental advocates.
The National Resources Defense Council retweeted the story to its Twitter followers and environmental activist Bill McKibben tweeted, “Feels like the technical term here is 'colonialism.'”
Feels like the technical term here is 'colonialism.' https://t.co/6Cp4dK6TpX— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) October 5, 2020
Julian Brave Noisecat, another environmental activist, wrote, “The Administration is now looking for Congress to legislatively gut the historic Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma."
.@tihuachang at @tytinvestigates has done some outstanding reporting on how Trump's EPA is maneuvering to strip tribes of environmental jurisdiction.— Julian Brave NoiseCat (@jnoisecat) October 5, 2020
The Administration is now looking for Congress to legislatively gut the historic Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma. https://t.co/m1WBjMLVTI
Pam Keith, a Democratic congressional candidate in Florida, called the EPA's decision "wrong" and "unbelievable."
Oh, HECK NO!!— Pam Keith (@PamKeithFL) October 5, 2020
This is WRONG! This is just...unbelievable. https://t.co/4PeKI5sAFT
Veteran journalist and White House veteran Bill Moyers retweeted the story and wrote:
For generations, tribes have been asking the US government to honor the written agreements it has made. After a landmark SCOTUS decision in July that defended #tribalsovereignty, Oklamhoma & the @EPA have, once again, reneged on an agreement. https://t.co/fAqXQb5I0v— BillMoyers.com (@BillMoyers) October 5, 2020
The Recount noted, “There’s an important story flying way under the radar while COVID rips through the White House."
There’s an important story flying way under the radar while COVID rips through the White House.@tihuachang reports the EPA has shifted control of nearly all of Oklahoma’s tribal land to the state, stripping 38 tribes of sovereignty over their lands.https://t.co/5AGW09eTp7— The Recount (@therecount) October 5, 2020