Declaring a shared commitment “that the lands, water and other natural resources of the Illinois River Watershed should be free of pollution,” the State of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation recently filed an agreement opposing poultry company assertions that the state lacks standing to pursue its Illinois River pollution case.
Filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, the agreement is in response to defendants’ standing claims as well as claims that the state should have joined the Cherokee Nation as a party in the lawsuit.
The state in 2005 sued several out-of-state poultry companies for pollution caused by the improper land application and storage of hundreds of thousands of tons of poultry waste. The state accuses the companies of knowingly violating numerous state and federal environmental laws with their careless waste-dumping methods.
As part of the agreement, the Cherokee Nation delegates and assigns to the state “the right to prosecute any of the Nation’s claims” against the defendants for their alleged pollution of the watershed.
“The legal claims in the defendants’ motion were merely a smokescreen,” Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. “Their true intention was to sidetrack the court. The issue is protecting the natural resources of the Illinois River Watershed from poultry company pollution. On that front, we stand united.”
“We are happy that the State acknowledges that we have an interest in these resources,” said Diane Hammons, the Cherokee Nation Attorney General. “Both the State and the Cherokee Nation are committed to protection of the Illinois River Watershed and the longevity of those resources for our citizens. This agreement represents the Nation’s authorization to the State to proceed in the litigation without the Nation entering as a party.”
“It’s significant for the state to acknowledge the Cherokee Nation’s governmental rights, and it’s a good sign that both governments can work together on this case,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “Neither the State nor the Nation wanted the delay or additional expense that the addition of another party to the case would mean at this point in the litigation.”
The state and the nation agree “that it is not necessary for the Court to resolve the precise nature of each sovereign’s interests in the lands, water and other natural resources of the Illinois River Watershed” at this time.
The agreement was signed by Edmondson on behalf of the state and by Hammons on behalf of the Cherokee Nation.
Source: Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, www.oag.state.ok.us
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