WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on May 4 its final policy on consultation and coordination with Indian tribes. EPA is among the first of the federal agencies to finalize its consultation policy in response to President Obama’s first tribal leaders summit in November 2009, and the issuance of executive order 13175 to establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal implications.
"EPA is dedicated to strengthening our collaboration with tribes and ensuring that they have a voice and a seat at the table on the issues that touch their health and their economy," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "President Obama has directed agencies across the federal government to revisit and update the ways we work together with tribal nations, a step that is critical to meeting the needs of today and ensuring our communities are cleaner, healthier and more prosperous heading into the future."
The final policy builds on EPA’s 1984 Indian policy and is intended to make good on the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthen tribal partnerships by establishing clear agency standards for the consultation process, to promote consistency and coordination. The policy establishes a new, broader standard for the types of actions that may be appropriate for consultation and makes clear the two-way nature of government-to-government consultation by inviting tribes to request issues for consultation. Actions that may be appropriate for consultation include developing standards, guidance, policies, permitting decisions, and activities under international agreements. The policy also establishes a management, oversight and reporting structure that will help ensure accountability and transparency by identifying responsible individuals in each office and requiring EPA program and regional offices to identify actions appropriate for consultation at least twice a year.