In the wake of a congressional hearing over a draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency that links hydraulic fracturing with water contamination in the town of Pavillion, the Wind River Tribes are pushing to take a bigger role in the investigation.
“It’s critically important that we really get into the center of these discussions, that we make sure that our sovereignty and our jurisdiction is not infringed upon in any way and that we make sure that our Wind River Environmental Quality Department and our unique legal and political relationship with the United States government is upheld in a manner that supports and upholds our jurisdiction and our authority,” says Eastern Shoshone Business Council Wes Martel.
Martel also says there has been little direct discussion over the area’s water problems with the state, the EPA or Pavillion residents.
Because the town sits within the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation, and the contaminated water and much of the minerals being extracted by oil and gas operator Encana belongs to the tribe, Martel says as the investigation continues, other agencies should defer to the Tribes.
“Under our tribal water code and under some of the environmental laws that have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court, we still have civil jurisdiction over trust resources,” says Martel. “So that’s why we’re trying to make sure that we obtain all of the technical information and are then in a position to determine how we move forward under any legal or administrative opportunities that we have.”