Here is the article from the Newport Miner:
Reservation Gets Class 1 Air Status
By Don Gronning | Of The Miner•Jul 24, 2019
WASHINGTON D.C. – The federal Environmental Protection Agency approved the Kalispel Tribe’s proposal to re-designate lands within the reservation to Class I under the Clean Air Act. Class 1 is the highest air standards mostly used for national parks, wilderness areas and Indian reservations. The final rule becomes effective Aug. 19, 30 days after it was published in the Federal Register.
“We’ve approved it,” said Bill Dunbar, of the EPA. “It’s a final rule.”
A change to Class 1 would require stricter air standards for industrial emitters of air pollution. The Clean Air Act provides for three classifications applicable to all lands of the United States: Class I, Class II and Class III. Most of the country is designated Class II. There are only three air quality classes and there are no Class III areas in the country.
The change to a Class I designation affects new, stationary polluters. Existing businesses such as Ponderay Newsprint and Vaagen Brothers wouldn’t be impacted unless they had a major expansion. Those who did emit more than the 100 tons of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide, could still get a permit to do so but would have to take measures to prevent excessive pollution. It wouldn’t affect everyday life, such as wood burning stoves or sanding.
Deane Osterman, the Executive Director of the Kalispel Natural Resource Department, was happy with the decision.
“The Kalispel Tribe of Indians is committed to the protection of our natural resources. The Class 1 Airshed re-designation will help protect our air resource for future generations,” Osterman said.
The EPA held a well attended public hearing on the proposed approval Dec. 6, 2018. The EPA also accepted written comment. The tribe also held a public hearing to get comment in April.
EPA received comments from 164 people, according to information about the re-designation from EPA. Of the 164, 137 supported EPA’s proposed action, while 17 opposed EPA’s proposed action. The remaining 10 comments were either unrelated to EPA’s proposed approval of the Kalispel Tribe’s re-designation request or did not recommend EPA take a position on the request.
In particular, several people expressed opposition to the proposed construction of a silicon smelter in Newport. However, the potential silicon smelter is unrelated to EPA’s proposed approval of the Kalispel Tribe’s re-designation request.
The tribe did seek the re-designation after it heard of the proposed silicon smelter and couldn’t get information from the developers.
Several local governments objected to the proposal, including the Pend Oreille County and Bonner County commissioners and the Port of Pend Oreille.
Port commissioner John Harkness wrote that the Port had concerns with the proposal. He said the tribe did not consult with neighboring governments, a theme echoed in other remarks from governments.
The EPA addressed the concern in their reason for adopting the redesignation.
“Several commenters argued that the regulations governing the process for seeking redesignation mandated that the Kalispel Tribe consult with county-level governments surrounding or near the Kalispel Reservation,” the EPA wrote in the federal rule. The EPA makes a distinction between covered by the rule and affected by the rule.
“The area ‘covered’ by the re-designation is separate and distinct from the areas that may be ‘affected’ by the re-designation,” the Federal Register rule reads. The area covered is the land within the reservation.
“As stated in the proposal, there is no consultation requirement for areas that may be affected by the proposed re-designation. By extension, the Kalispel Tribe was not required to consult with county-level governments in Washington or Idaho prior to proposing the re-designation,” the EPA rule read.
Local governments also expressed concern about economic development if stricter air quality rules were adopted. The EPA says that economic development isn’t one of the criteria for denying re-designation.
According to the Clean Air Act, “The Administrator may disapprove the re-designation of any area only if he finds, after notice and opportunity for public hearing, that such re-designation does not meet the procedural requirements of or is inconsistent with the requirements of [Section 162(a) of the CAA] (listing mandatory Class I areas).”
People commenting and submitting written comments also supported the re-designation.
“We started CANSS because of a fear of pollution,” Michael Naylor, former chairman of the Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter said at the December hearing. He said CANSS has always supported the tribe’s proposal to increase the air standards.
“Only with Class I status can the tribe have control,” said Jerry Person, another testifier at the December hearing.
Six reservations in the country have Class I status, including The Spokane Tribe’s reservation, which has had Class I designation since 1991. The Spokane reservation is about 50 miles from Spokane.