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Home > Feature Articles > Municipality Strategies for Sustainable Community Best Practices

EPA approves nation’s most comprehensive tribal air quality plan at Gila River Indian Community

Gila River Indian Community’s air quality plan serves as a model for tribes nationwide.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing approval of the Gila River Indian Community’s Tribal Implementation Plan, a blueprint of how to achieve improved air quality on the Community’s lands which will serve as a model for other tribes.

"Gila River has done a fantastic job of developing an air quality plan that is unrivalled nationally in both breadth and depth," said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "Gila River is the first Tribe to accept such a high level of substantial responsibility for air quality on their reservation. This plan can serve as a model to tribes nationwide."

The air quality plan provides a framework for protecting air quality on the Reservation, including

  • ordinances
  • permit program
  • civil and criminal enforcement
  • air monitoring
  • emissions inventory

The Jan. 19, 2011 signing ceremony featured Governor Rhodes of Gila River, Gila River Tribal Council members, the EPA Region 9 Regional Administrator, and the Gila River Department of Environmental Quality, as well as the EPA staff who worked on the plan, and invited guests.

The Gila River Indian Community’s Department of Environmental Quality has spent the last 12 years developing and implementing the Plan to protect air quality on tribal lands. In addition, the Gila River Tribe developed a team of environmental professionals, the majority of whom are Native American, to administer and enforce this plan. EPA’s action today makes the plan federally enforceable.

Other environmental innovations introduced by the Gila River tribe include:

  • Specific ordinances for local businesses and industries such as aluminum extrusion plants, an explosives manufacturer, several sand and gravel operations, and chemical supply companies;
  • Regulations that cover dust emissions, and the storage and handling of metal cleaners.

Located in central Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community encompasses over 600 square miles, and has three industrial parks, extensive agricultural lands, and three casinos.

The GRIC reservation is located in south-central Arizona, adjacent to the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, in Pinal and Maricopa Counties. The entire reservation is designated attainment or unclassifiable/attainment for the following NAAQS pollutants: lead (Pb), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5), and ground-level ozone.

The only criteria pollutant for which a portion of the reservation is currently designated nonattainment is PM10. Approximately 92,000 acres of the GRIC reservation, along its northern boundary, lie within the Maricopa County (Phoenix Planning Area) serious PM10 nonattainment area.

The minor source permit program sets forth legally enforceable procedures that enable the GRIC to determine whether the construction or modification of a facility, building, structure or installation, or combination of these will result in interference with attainment or maintenance of a NAAQS in the GRIC reservation or in a neighboring State, and includes the administrative procedures for making these determinations. The procedures enable the GRIC to prevent construction where such interference will occur. The procedures also require the GRIC to provide opportunity for public comment on information submitted by owners and operators, the GRIC’s analysis of the effect of construction or modification on ambient air quality, and the proposed approval or disapproval.

Area Source Emission Limits apply to:

  • Open burning, including permits and exemptions
  • Fugitive dust or particulate matter from a variety of activities and sources such as construction sites, bulk material hauling, storage piles, and unpaved parking lots
  • Volatile Organic Compound Storage, Usage, and Handling
  • Degreasing and Solvent Metal Cleaning
  • Secondary Aluminum Facilities
  • Aerospace Manufacturing
  • Nonmetallic Mineral Processing
For more information, please visit:

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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