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WASHINGTON — In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country recently.

 New Report on Mining Seeks to Protect Tribes

The U.S. Department of the Interior-led (DOI) Interagency Working Group on Mining Laws, Regulations, and Permitting released a new report outlining 65 recommendations for modernizing the country’s severely outdated mining system. The report was informed by tens of thousands of public comments, as well as dozens of working group meetings with external stakeholders. Upon release of the report, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement:

“For more than a century and a half, mining companies have been given carte blanche to pollute waterways, bypass tribal sovereignty, and leave American taxpayers with billions in cleanup and reclamation costs. We know that our transition to a clean energy future will require new minerals, but we cannot continue to operate under this destructive and unjust status quo. The Biden administration’s new report, which was informed by more than 26,000 public comments, is a welcome, commonsense set of recommendations for Congress, federal agencies, and industry to modernize our more than 150-year-old mining law in a way that better protects tribes, nearby communities, our environment, and taxpayer dollars.”

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Legislation to Support Women Business Owners Introduced

Recently, Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-03), a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, along with Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), introduced the Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act, which would increase access to resources and opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Kansas and across the country. Davids’ bill passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support in 2019 and 2022.

“While women-owned businesses employ 9.4 million people nationwide and contribute $1.2 trillion to our economy each year, these entrepreneurs often face increased challenges in starting and growing a business. By properly funding resources like Women’s Business Centers, we can increase access to credit and vital training services that help set entrepreneurs up for success,” Davids said. 

The Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act increases federal support to WBCs by doubling the maximum annual grant award to $300,000 for individual centers, reauthorizes the WBC program for four years, and increases the total authorization level for the first time since the program began. The bill also establishes an accreditation program run by the Association of Women’s Business Centers to ensure all WBCs provide excellent service and counseling.

EPA’s Final Rule Corrects a Trump Era Rollback, Brings Clarity to Tribal Authority to Protect Water Quality

 On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule interpreting Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to reiterate Tribes and states’ authority to protect their water quality.

To protect water quality, Section 401 of the Clean Water Act creates a state-tribal-federal partnership, giving individual states and some Tribes the ability to review the impacts of federally-licensed projects, like oil and gas pipelines, on waterways and wetlands within their borders.
 
In 2020 under the Trump administration, EPA finalized a rule that significantly altered past interpretations of Section 401 and attempted to substantially limit states and tribes’ authority to reject projects that would harm their waterways and health.

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