- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - An energy company has withdrawn from Wyoming’s lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that lands around Riverton are legally Indian Country.

However, Gov. Matt Mead said the decision by Devon Energy to drop out does not weaken or jeopardize the lawsuit, which is now before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The EPA in 2013 announced it had determined that a 1905 federal law opening part of the reservation to settlement by non-Indians didn’t extinguish the land’s reservation status.

The EPA addressed the boundary issue when it granted a request from both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to treat their joint Wind River Indian Reservation as a separate state under the federal Clean Air Act.

Wyoming maintains that it’s up to Congress to determine reservation boundaries.

Devon Energy joined the state of Wyoming and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation in the suit against the EPA’s decision in early 2014.

Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Dean Goggles said the tribe negotiated with Devon Energy to ease the company’s concern that granting the reservation treatment as a state would hamper oil exploration on the reservation.

“One of America’s leading oil and gas companies took a closer look and decided the decision does them no harm,” Goggles said.

The legal treatment would grant the tribes more oversight of environmental issues on the reservation and designate a 171,000-acre swath of land including Riverton as part of the reservation.

Wyoming and the 10 other states that intervened in the case say energy exploration is only part of the larger argument over the role of federal agencies.

“Devon Energy’s withdrawal from the Wind River Boundary lawsuit does not affect Wyoming’s interest in the case, nor does it harm or weaken the lawsuit,” Mead said in an email to the Casper Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/1F1VFSY).

Mead said the state would continue pursuing its suit to protect Wyoming citizens from federal overreach.

“Private corporations have to do what is best for their shareholders; Wyoming has to do what is best for its citizens,” he said.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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