The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe wants to regulate its own air standards. If that’s approved by the federal government, it would be another tool in their effort to stop a proposed iron ore mine in the nearby Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin.
It takes years to go through this process with the Environmental Protection Agency. And Bad River has been at it since 2002, when it set up air monitoring stations. Tribal Environmental Director Cyrus Hester says they’re finishing their technical report and they could be ready for public comment later this winter, “Maybe the easiest way to think about it is there are several National Parks and wilderness areas that have this status. So it’s basically protecting the air quality similar to what one might find in a federal wilderness area.”
Hester says this new status would include industries on or near the reservation, like a mining operation, if it impacts reservation air, “A taconite processing facility would be a regulated facility and could be influenced. So we’re really just talking about the roasting of the taconite pellets and the emission sources from there.”
Just as importantly, Hester says it gives tribes the same status as states, “And it makes sure that that environment that’s so essential of the people, both tribal members and people throughout the Northland, makes sure that those considerations that the environment is protected and there’s a thorough review process.”
Only one Wisconsin tribe, the Forest County Potawatomi, has federal class one status to regulate its own air. Bad River was given approval by the EPA to create its own water quality standards in 2011.