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SCVNews.com | Cabazon Indians Agree to State Enforcement of Air Quality Regs on Tribal Land | 01-18-2012
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[AQMD] – Southland air quality officials have reached a government-to-government agreement with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians to enforce local air quality regulations in the 640-acre Cabazon Resource Recovery Park in Riverside County.

“We are very pleased that the Cabazon Band has committed to an agreement with AQMD to enforce air quality regulations in the industrial park near Mecca,” said John J. Benoit, a Riverside County Supervisor and AQMD Governing Board Member. “We look forward to partnering with the Cabazon Band to protect public health and air quality.”

“We would like to thank AQMD and its staff for the cooperation and efforts put forth toward a mutually acceptable agreement by both parties,” said Tribal Chairman David Roosevelt. “This agreement is the demonstration of our commitment to the community and environmental stewardship on sovereign lands.”

The government-to-government agreement is a significant step forward in protecting air quality in the Mecca area since the Cabazon Band and many Native American tribes across the country maintain that state and local agencies have limited authority to enforce their regulations on sovereign tribal land.

The agreement establishes an air sampling, monitoring and enforcement procedure. In addition, under the agreement the Cabazon Band will:

– Require facilities operating within the Cabazon Resource Recovery Park – including Western Environmental Inc. – to comply with all applicable AQMD rules. AQMD will provide technical expertise in developing conditions to be imposed on operating permits issued by the Cabazon Band to non-tribal owned facilities;

– Provide access to AQMD personnel into facilities within the Cabazon Resource Recovery Park to conduct air sampling, monitoring and inspection activities;

– Include an AQMD representative on the Tribal Environmental Board established to oversee environmental issues within the Cabazon Resource Recovery Park;

– Establish a community benefit program where any penalties assessed for air quality rule violations will be set aside for programs benefitting residents of the Cabazon Reservation and surrounding communities;

– Require facilities to reimburse AQMD for sampling, monitoring and inspection activities consistent with requirements for Southland facilities outside tribal land;

– Allow AQMD to enforce permits issued by the U.S. EPA to facilities operating within Cabazon Resource Recovery Park.

Once AQMD issues a violation notice, the Tribal Environmental Board reviews it and approves, modifies or rejects it. In addition, a facility or AQMD can appeal to the Cabazon Tribal Court if the violation notice remains in dispute 90 days after it was issued.

The agreement does not apply to Colmac Energy, Inc., a biomass-to-energy plant in the resource recovery park. Colmac has operated under a monitoring and enforcement agreement with AQMD, the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, the County of Riverside and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments and with endorsement from U.S. EPA, since 1989.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

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