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Yankton Sioux Tribe v. Southern Mo. Waste Management Dist.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 20505
Nos. No. CIV 94-4127, 890 F. Supp. 878/(D.S.D., 06/14/1995)

The court holds that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations apply to a solid waste facility to be built within the exterior boundaries of a Native American reservation. The court first holds that an act of Congress ratifying a sales agreement for surplus tribal lands did not disestablish the exterior boundaries of the reservation. A clause in the sales agreement stating that the agreement should not be construed to abrogate the treaty creating the reservation was an internal consistency in the agreement which the court was bound by precedent to construe in favor of the tribe. Since the circumstances surrounding Congress' ratification of the agreement fail to establish a clear congressional purpose to disestablish the tribal boundaries, the court concludes that Congress could reasonably have understood that the tribe intended to cede the surplus lands within the exterior of the reservation, but did not intend to relinquish the boundaries created by treaty. The court next holds that the tribe may not assert civil jurisdiction over the municipal solid waste landfill proposed to be built on non-Indian lands within the exterior boundaries of the reservation. The tribe failed to provide evidence of express congressional intent to allow the tribe to assert regulatory jurisdiction over non-Indian lands within the borders of the reservation. The court also holds that although the proposed landfill may be constructed, a composite liner must be installed in accordance with 40 C.F.R. §258.40(b). EPA exempted the reservation from its final determination of the adequacy of South Dakota's State/Tribal Municipal Waste Permit Program. Until EPA takes final action to approve or disapprove the state or tribe's solid waste program, federal EPA regulations apply to the proposed landfill.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
James G. Abourezk
Abourezk Law Offices
2040 W. Main St., Ste. 101, Rapid City SD 57709
(605) 342-0097

Counsel for Defendant
Charles D. McGuigan, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
500 E. Capitol St., Pierre SD 57501
(605) 773-3215