Chief Cook Congressman Ruiz Chief Thompson
Chief Cook Congressman Ruiz Chief Thompson

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Submits Testimony on EPA FY 2018 Budget

May 11, 2017

AKWESASNE — On Wednesday, Onerahtohkó:wa/May 10, 2017; the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council submitted written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies urging Congress to appropriate full funding for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Programs that positively impact Indian Country. The testimony was submitted for the public record as the House Subcommittee prepares to hold American Indian and Alaska Native public witness hearings on Onerahtohkó:wa/May 16th and 17th on the EPA’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

“We are deeply concerned by the Trump Administration’s proposed budget that calls for the elimination of a number of critical environmental programs that assists us in providing our community members with clean water, monitoring water and air containments, protecting our natural resources, and conducting other mitigation work that promotes the overall health of our local environment,” stated Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance. “The written testimony we submitted requests that Congress maintain full funding for EPA programs that positively impact the Akwesasne community.”

The community of Akwesasne is located directly downriver and downwind from three Superfund sites that have released hazardous contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other volatile compounds, for more than sixty years. As a result, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has developed and maintains a vigorous Environmental Division to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our community members and the environment.

“For the past few years, the Tribal Council’s lobbying strategy has included face-to-face discussions with political leaders, presentations at national gatherings, and participation in federal listening sessions and congressional roundtables to protect and advance the interests of Akwesasne and Indian Country,” said Tribal Sub-Chief Michael Conners.

Noting community concerns being advanced through federal lobbying, Tribal Chief Beverly Cook added, “Through assorted political channels we have voiced the environmental injustice inflicted upon the Akwesasne community and not only urged the continuation of support for the Tribe’s environmental efforts, but to also entirely fund the complete cleanup of contaminated materials left behind by industries at three Superfund Sites adjacent to our territory.”

The Tribe’s testimony specifically mentions the need for the continuation of EPA’s competitive grant programs associated with Air Quality, State and Tribal Assistance, Water Pollution Control, Brownfields, Superfund, Pesticides, Solid Waste, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (“GLRI”), and Environmental Justice. The elimination of funding for these critical programs would impact the Tribe’s Environment Division by more than $1.8 Million, which amounts to approximately 65 percent of our funding. Any loss of funding would be detrimental to the health of the Mohawk people.

“The U.S. Government’s federal trust responsibility includes a fiduciary obligation, which is a main principle of federal Indian law, to protect the lands and resources of tribal communities,” shared Tribal Chief Eric Thompson. “It has been the longstanding responsibility of the EPA to assist and support the environmental work of federally recognized Tribes for every Administration since President Richard Nixon established the federal agency in 1970. We expect Congress to uphold this important precedent and continue to fully fund programs that assist us in keeping our environment clean and our community healthy pursuant to the federal trust responsibility.”

To download and view the written testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, please click here.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council submitted testimony as the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies holds hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Pictured are Chief Beverly Cook and Chief Eric Thompson with Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), center. Along with Sub-Chief Michael Conners, Tribal Council has been lobbying federal officials and agencies in voicing environmental injustice at Akwesasne and urging the federal government to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to Indian Country.

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The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.