Indigenous Leaders Furious After EPA Grants Oklahoma Control Over Sovereign Tribal Lands
By Brett Wilkins
In a little-noticed development last week that drew ire after being reported Monday, the Trump administration's EPA granted the state of Oklahoma wide-ranging environmental regulatory control on nearly all tribal lands in the state, stripping dozens of tribes of their sovereignty over critical environmental issues.
The Young Turks which first reported the news, obtained a copy of an October 1 letter from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler granting a request by Republican Gov. J. Kevin Stitt for control of environmental regulations on tribal land on a wide range of issues, including:
- Dumping hazardous waste—including formaldehyde; mercury; lead; asbestos; toxic air pollutants; per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); pesticides; the herbicide glyphosate, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—on tribal lands.
- Underground Injection Control, the EPA's fracking permitting system.
- Protecting major agricultural polluters, including large-scale factory farming operations.
The Environmental Protection Agency @EPA has stripped indigenious tribes of regulatory control over environmental i… https://t.co/w1tlxBaWtl— Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) (@Climate Justice Alliance (CJA))1601902847.0
Wheeler's letter acknowledges McGirt v. Oklahoma, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in July that much of eastern Oklahoma is Native American land. The new EPA move essentially means the state of Oklahoma now has the same rights as it did before McGirt. Attorney General William Barr has joined Republican leaders in seeking ways to undermine the landmark ruling.
Cherokee Nation is now visible on Google Maps. It is the latest reservation added after a Supreme Court ruling in… https://t.co/G4yxXdRpJP— AJ+ (@AJ+)1601309014.0
The fossil fuel and industrial agriculture industries wield tremendous power in Oklahoma. The state Capitol—which was built on stolen Indigenous land—sits atop a large oil field and has a working oil rig on its grounds. The names of oil companies are also inscribed inside the building's dome.
The EPA policy change—which affects some 38 Native American tribes—sparked anger among Indigenous leaders.
"After over 500 years of oppression, lies, genocide, ecocide, and broken treaties, we should have expected the EPA ruling in favor of racist Gov. Stitt of Oklahoma, yet it still stings," Casey Camp-Horinek, environmental ambassador and elder and hereditary drum keeper for the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, told TYT.
Under the Trump administration, destroying all environmental protection has been ramped up to give the fossil fuel industry life support as it takes its last dying breath. Who suffers the results? Everyone and everything! Who benefits? Trump and his cronies, climate change deniers like Gov. Stitt, Sens. [James] Inhofe and [James] Lankford, who are financially supported by big oil and gas.
I am convinced that we must fight back against this underhanded ruling. In the courts, on the frontlines and in the international courts, life itself is at stake.
The EPA attempted to assuage tribal leaders in a September 29 summary report in which the agency vowed to adhere to federal law. However, under President Donald Trump, the agency has reversed, or is in the process of reversing, over 100 environmental rules governing clean air and water, toxic chemicals, and more.
The summary report notes that the EPA consulted with 13 Indigenous tribes. It also acknowledges that all of the tribes questioned the limited time and geographical scope of the consultations.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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