2018- The Quapaw Tribe, the EPA, and Tribal Self-Determination, 1980-2010

“When dealing with tribes, the EPA ultimately decides how to apply the Clean Water Act (CWA, 1972), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA, 1974), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, 1980), also known as Superfund. The EPA sets the scientific parameters to which tribes must acquiesce. In the case of the Tar Creek Superfund, EPA Region 6 did not permit the Quapaw Tribe to take the lead on cleaning its own land, despite the fact that
federal courts have empowered the EPA in electing to defer leadership in such cases. This is somewhat surprising, given that the EPA began operations on December 2, 1970, at the dawn of the self-determination era and became a primary partner with tribes. The EPA’s Indian Work Group released a statement in 1983: “It would recognize tribal governments as the primary parties for policy formulation and implementation on Indian lands, consistent with agency standards and regulations. The
Agency is prepared to work directly with Indian Tribal Governments on a one-to-one basis, rather than as subdivisions of other governments.”