Almost five years ago, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes submitted an application to the federal government asking for the Wind River Indian Reservation to be treated as a separate state for monitoring air quality. They're still waiting on a response.
Eastern Shoshone tribe chairman Darwin St. Clair says it’s a matter of tribal sovereignty as well as stewardship of their land. He says with a coal power plant and oil and gas fields nearby, air quality is a high priority.
“If you lived in Wyoming for very long you know that the majority of the time the wind blows from the west to the east. So where we’re located being east of Jonas [sic] field and east of this plant, we are susceptible to air quality,” St. Clair says.
If the Environmental Protection Agency approves the tribes’ request, they would be able to apply for grant money for air quality monitoring initiatives.
St. Clair says the EPA, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Justice have been working with him to address jurisdictional concerns. But the Northern Arapaho tribe, fed up with delays on a decision, recently sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder saying the Justice Department is interfering with EPA’s decision.