Appeals board upholds Navajo permitting authority

Flagstaff, Arizona (AP) April 2012

An environmental appeals board has upheld the Navajo Nation’s authority to regulate major sources of air pollution on the reservation.

The Navajo Nation was the first tribe to be delegated authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to administer an air permits program that covers 14 sources on the reservation, including power plants.

The tribe issued a permit in 2009 that set limits for particulate emissions for Peabody Western Coal Company’s operations. But the company objected to citations of tribal law in the initial permit and a revised one, saying the permit essentially was identical to one issued by the EPA.

The EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board ruled earlier this month that tribe did not exceed its authority.

Navajo President Ben Shelly is hailing the decision as recognition of tribal sovereignty.