- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The city of Riverton and surrounding lands are not part of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, an appeals court ruled Wednesday in a case that involves federal air-quality law and had major implications for the city’s day-to-day business.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determination that the reservation’s tribes had authority to regulate air quality in the area.

More than pollution rules were at stake, however. Arguing against the EPA determination, state officials warned that Wyoming would lose jurisdiction over everything from law enforcement to public schools in the city of 10,000 people.

The court battle hurt the city by creating uncertainty, Mayor Lars Baker said.

“The vagueness of the situation that we’ve been involved in has really been kind of detrimental to Riverton’s potential,” Baker said. “And we think we’ve missed out on some business opportunities in the community and believe that there’s been a chilling of land sales as a result of people just not fully understanding what the EPA case meant to them.”

Baker said he hopes the ruling leads to stronger ties between the city and the tribes.

Gov. Matt Mead also welcomed the decision, saying the EPA overstepped its authority.

“The EPA’s decision went against 100 years of history and was one that should not come from a regulatory agency,” Mead said.

The EPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes share the reservation. Northern Arapaho officials questioned how two of the judges determined that the tribes had ceded the portion of the reservation in question.

The tribes will appeal to the full 10th Circuit, said Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Roy Brown.

The case hinged on interpretation of a 1905 decision by Congress that threw open some 1.4 million acres of the Wind River Reservation to settlement by non-Indians.

Private citizens purchased more than 170,000 acres before the sales ended 10 years later.

The EPA in 2013 ruled in a Clean Air Act matter that, even though the land was sold, it remained legally part of the reservation.

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