WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN INDIAN COUNTRY? THE CHACO CANYON CASE STUDY
November 17, 2020 10:30am-NOON PST, 11:30am-1pm MST, 12:30pm-2pm CST, 1:30pm-3pm EST
President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 (EO) and its accompanying Presidential Memorandum on February 11, 1994, incorporating the concept of “environmental justice” (EJ) into considerations for federal agencies in the environmental review and decision-making process. This EJ consideration has been further incorporated into CEQ and federal agency guidance.
The focus of the federal EJ policy is to reduce “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority and low-income populations.” While this policy covers Indian Country, the policy does not explicitly take into consideration the unique political and legal relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes and tribal members. Because of these relationships, EJ must not only exceed “fair treatment” but also comply with tribal sovereignty, treaty rights and government-to-government relationships.
The unique nature of EJ in Indian Country has been playing out in the battle over oil and gas leasing and development in the checkerboard lands adjacent to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park (CCNHP) in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin. Individual tribal members, Indian allottees, the Navajo Nation, and the All Pueblo Council of Governors are on opposing sides in ongoing litigation. See e.g. Dine C.A.R.E. v. Bernhardt, 923 F.2d 381 (10th Cir. 2019). This panel will explore environmental justice considerations in this complex context.
Pilar Thomas, Partner, Quarles & Brady LLP (chair and moderator)
Mario Atencio, Board Member at Large, Diné C.A.R.E.
Brian L. Lewis, Attorney, Brian Lewis Legal LLC
Kathleen Sgamma, President, Western Energy Alliance
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