The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, through its Environmental Programs Division – Air Quality Program (AQP) has received national recognition by receiving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Excellence Award for Regulatory and Policy Innovation.
The Tribe was one of seven groups or individuals recognized in a ceremony at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, June 28. The Clean Air Excellence Awards are given to state, local, tribal, and private sector programs that educate the public in improving air quality or reducing harmful air pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
“Each of these award winners has taken real, tangible steps to improve public health in their communities by reducing air pollutants or greenhouse gases,” Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation said. “These projects reflect the creativity and commitment of public and private sector organizations to make a difference and drive us toward a cleaner, healthier future.”
The Tribe has sought to manage and improve the air quality for tribal members and residents within the Reservation through a partnership established between the Tribe and the State of Colorado through an Intergovernmental Agreement.
This agreement established an Environmental Commission, with equal Tribe and State representation, to direct air quality policy and develop regulations applicable to all Reservation air pollution sources.
The Commission adopted a Reservation Air Code and on March 2, 2012, the Tribe was delegated the administration of a Part 70 Title V Operating Permit Program by the EPA. Full delegation of this program is unique in that it is the first and only fully delegated, operating permit program in Indian Country.
The AQP has successfully completed the task of transitioning 33 permits from the EPA to the Tribe and has issued four new permits, within a three-year period. In 2014, the AQP initiated a full compliance-monitoring program and has completed 27 inspections to-date.
The award was accepted on behalf of the Tribe by Executive Officer, Michelle Taylor-Cruz. Ms. Taylor Cruz expressed appreciation to the tribal staff and the support provided by the EPA staff and indicated the award was reflective of the Tribe’s core principles. Mark Hutson, the Air Quality Program Manager, echoed the “contributions of a dedicated tribal staff and appreciation to the Tribal Council and Tribal Administration for their continued leadership and support.”
The Tribe’s administration of the Title V Operating Permit Program has improved the permitting and compliance process for regulated sources and through more frequent compliance inspections has increased assurance of conformity with Clean Air Act regulations, reducing criteria and hazardous air pollutant emissions. This will result in a cleaner airshed and improved health for tribal members and residents of the Four Corners Area.
For more information on the AQP, or air quality on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, check out the webpage at http://www.southernute-nsn.gov/environmental-programs/air-quality/.