The leader of the Crow Nation in Montana joined 17 state attorneys general Friday in challenging the Obama administration's effort to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30%, saying it would cripple the tribe's already fragile economy.
Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote said the administration's new regulations would vastly reduce the tribe's coal exports to power plants.
The tribe already faces a 47% unemployment rate, Old Coyote said, and revenue from coal mining makes up two-thirds of its nonfederal budget.
"Without any regard to humans' lives, they are saying we have to shut down carbon emissions by this much," Old Coyote said Friday. "The EPA is overstepping their bounds. They are taking it to another level where it will be devastating to us."
The reservation has 2 million acres of subsurface mineral rights, including an estimated 9 billion tons of coal.
In a letter sent to Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator, Old Coyote and Montana Atty. Gen. Tim Fox said the EPA "utterly failed" to consider the economic effects of the proposal to reduce carbon emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The letter also said the EPA did not properly consult with the Crow Nation or offer alternatives to mitigate the proposal's effects.
In a statement, EPA officials said they met with Crow leaders in July after the proposal was released and sent two letters notifying them of the proposal. Old Coyote said that the letters were boilerplate announcements and that the meeting did not seek the tribe's input.
"They said, 'Oh, hi, hello, we are the EPA and this is our regulation,'" Old Coyote said. "There was no conversation."
Fox said that the Crow Nation could seek to scuttle the rule if its officials can prove the EPA did not properly consult with them.
"The lawmakers should be the ones working it out, not the agency saying, 'This is what we are going to do whether you like it or not,'" Old Coyote said.