Jim Woods of Makah Tribe continues as EPA senior tribal policy advisor for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
jim woods(July 30, 2013 – Seattle)   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Jim Woods, of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington, will continue as the region’s Senior Tribal Policy Advisor for an additional two-year term.
Jim, or K’a’s•cak•a•b’lkh to the Makah, will continue to work with over 271 tribes in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, as part of an Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement with the Swinomish Tribe originally signed in 2011.
“I am pleased that Jim has agreed to extend his term through July 2015, and I am grateful to the Swinomish Tribe for their continuing strong support of Jim and partnership with EPA,” said Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator. “Our region has by far the largest number of tribal governments in the nation, and Jim has been key to helping us fulfill our trust responsibilities and work together to protect the resources that tribes depend on.”
“EPA has a unique relationship with tribes, as our common goal is to ensure we provide healthy and safe communities and sustainable resources in the Northwest and Alaska for today and generations to come.  As EPA’s Senior Tribal Policy Advisor, Jim carries the voices of hundreds of tribal communities and members in a meaningful way to EPA and helps both the agency and tribes find common ground to advance tribal environmental protection objectives,” said Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe.
Jim will continue to serve under a renewed Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement, as the senior liaison between tribes and the EPA regional office, communicating tribal perspectives, trust responsibility, sovereignty, treaty rights, and self-governance to the Regional Administrator and senior EPA management.
One of Jim’s primary responsibilities is the regional implementation of the Presidential Executive Order on Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments, focusing on promoting effective and meaningful government-to-government interaction with tribes in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
Before his appointment to EPA, Jim served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Swinomish Tribe, focusing on environmental policies, natural resource policies, and treaty rights.
Jim previously led the Sustainable Resource Management division for the Makah Tribal Council.
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What’s up with Gina McCarthy’s nomination to head the EPA?

Claire Thompson, Grist

Many of Obama’s nominees have not been popular with Republicans in the Senate, but Gina McCarthy has faced a particularly tough fight. GOP senators boycotted a committee vote on her nomination two months ago, mostly because of their knee-jerk hatred of all things related to the EPA (or, as some prefer to call it, the job-killing organization of America).

McCarthy has a reputation as a tough and experienced policymaker committed to fighting climate change, whose work as Massachusetts’ top environmental advisor contributed to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 ruling giving EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. She’s worked for Republicans as well as Democrats and collaborated constructively with industry, but that background hasn’t calmed GOP worries about what the EPA might do on climate change.

Over recent months, McCarthy repeatedly assured senators that the EPA was not working on carbon regulations for existing power plants. But then last week, Obama announced in his big climate speech that he planned to order EPA to develop just such regulations. Politico reported last week that this could further endanger McCarthy’s nomination because GOP lawmakers might accuse her of misleading them or argue that she was out of touch and incompetent (although the only people Politico quoted to support that theory were an oil-industry lobbyist and a GOP energy strategist).

But now, a week later, Politico reports that, on the contrary, a McCarthy confirmation is looking increasingly likely. Enough Republicans are philosophically opposed to filibustering presidential nominees that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, says she isn’t concerned about having to lock up 60 filibuster-proof votes in McCarthy’s favor.

Some Republican senators, like Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), find McCarthy qualified and seem likely to support her. So do some fossil-fuel-friendly Democrats, reports Politico:

“My constituents are generally very upset with the EPA and [its] overreach and [its] overregulation,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said.

“Having said that, I have honestly gotten nothing but positive comments back from the industry groups in Louisiana on Gina McCarthy herself. I mean, while the industry groups are very negative towards the EPA generally, they are very positive towards Gina McCarthy as a person … that could potentially find compromises on some of these things.”

Democratic Senate leaders plan to put McCarthy up for a vote sometime this month. As of Monday, EPA has been without a permanent administrator for 137 days, the longest period of time in its history. It’s been 119 days since McCarthy’s nomination, also a record delay.

Fish consumption rate: Why 20 years of studies is enough

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Over at Keep Our Seafood Clean, we’ve taken a look at the current debate in the state legislature over funding a new study on fish consumption rates in Washington. This isn’t a new debate, but after twenty years of study, some are still calling for “more study.”

Catherine O’Neill’s broad piece on the fish consumption rate has a great explanation on all of the attacks on previous fish consumption studies and why decades of work is enough.

Throughout the process of updating the FCR in Washington, there have been broadsides on the science that supports increased rates.

Although the relevant surveys of tribal fish consumption were carefully conducted to ensure their scientific defensibility, and have consistently been found to meet EPA’s (and sister states’) standards in this regard, their validity has nonetheless continued to be challenged by industry and individuals.

Ecology’s initial (Fish Consumption Rate Technical Support Document) FCR TSD considered three studies of tribal fish consumption and one study of Asian and Pacific Islanders in King County, finding each of these four studies to be scientifically defensible. In its FCR TSD, Ecology developed a set of criteria to determine the technical defensibility of fish consumption survey data, to be used in assessing the data’s relevance and appropriateness to the regulatory context in Washington, i.e., for use in standards for water quality, surface water cleanup, and sediment cleanup. …

As documented at length in the FCR TSD, each of the tribal studies considered… was found to have “satisfied” Ecology’s measures of technical defensibility.

The support for the previous studies has been deep and wide:

Moreover, the scientific defensibility of each of the tribal studies had previously been considered and affirmed in various assessments by EPA and by sister states. After an evaluation of the surveys according to five criteria, including the study’s “soundness,” “applicability and utility,” “clarity and completeness,” its handling of “uncertainty and variability,” and whether the study’s methods and information were “independently verified, validated, and peer reviewed,” EPA selected each of the tribal studies for inclusion in its general guidance document for conducting exposure assessments, the Exposure Factors Handbook. EPA Region X, moreover, recommends the Tulalip/Squaxin Island and Suquamish studies in its guidance for cleanups in Puget Sound, giving “highest preference” to these “well-designed consumption surveys.” Oregon’s independent Human Health Focus Group conducted an extensive year-long review and found each of these studies to be scientifically defensible, deeming them both “reliable” and “relevant.”

But, yet:

Still, the scientific defensibility of the tribal studies has been questioned, repeatedly, by individuals and industry as part of the Washington process. Some commenters asked that the tribal survey data be “verified” or sought additional “peer-reviewed studies generated through traditional means.”

Some people have asked that all the year’s of previous study be treated differently that other studies:

Some commenters called for the raw data (as opposed to the studies summarizing the survey results) to be “turned over” for “independent review” – a highly unusual request in general, given the ethical protocols that govern studies with human subjects, and a request in this context that is at the very least insensitive, given tribal populations’ understandable mistrust of handing over their raw “data” to outsiders.

To the credit of the state, the pushback against questioning these studies has been consistent. For example, in terms of turning over the “raw data”:

Ecology also called upon experts at the University of Washington School of Public Health to explain the standard practice in the field with respect to custody of survey data – an explanation that confirmed the inappropriateness of requests that the raw data be turned over to the public.

Even as late as last fall, Ted Sturdevant, then director of the Washington Department of Ecology told a house committee: “I’m confident that the studies that we’re relying on were done with all appropriate scientific rigor.”

So, why the need for even more study?

Navajo Generating Station gains support from government agencies

Interior, Energy, EPA Commit to Cooperative Working Group to Achieve Shared Goals on Navajo Generating Station in Arizona

Release Date: 01/04/2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, press@epa.gov

WASHINGTON – Today the Department of the Interior, Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency released a joint statement that lays out the agencies’ shared goals for Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and energy production in the region served by NGS.

In the statement, the three agencies agree they will work together to support Arizona and tribal stakeholders in finding ways to produce “clean, affordable and reliable power, affordable and sustainable water supplies, and sustainable economic development, while minimizing negative impacts on those who currently obtain significant benefits from NGS, including tribal nations.”

In addition to identifying shared goals, the statement announces specific activities the agencies intend to take jointly to help achieve those goals. These actions include: 1) creating a long-term DOI-EPA-DOE NGS working group; 2) working with stakeholders to develop an NGS roadmap; 3) committing to complete the second phase of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s report on clean, affordable, and sustainable energy options for NGS; and 4) supporting near-term investments that align with long-term clean energy goals.

A copy of the Joint Statement is available at http://epa.gov/air/tribal/pdfs/130103_statement_ngs.pdf.

NGS is a coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Indian reservation approximately 15 miles from the Grand Canyon and owned partially by the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). Power from the facility is distributed to customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Reclamation’s share of the power is used to move water to tribal, agricultural, and municipal water users in central Arizona.

The Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency oversee other federal responsibilities or interests that relate to NGS. These include tribal trust responsibilities, protection of national parks and wilderness areas, visibility and public health protection, and clean energy development.