Federal judge rejects Oklahoma injunction to end federal jurisdiction over mining on tribal lands

A federal judge rejects an Oklahoma state injunction to stop the Department of the Interior from removing state surface mining jurisdiction over the Muscogee Reservation.

Governor Kevin Stitt had argued that the federal government had exceeded its authority by citing the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision.

It all started last year, when the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma in part that Indian reservations in the eastern part of the state had never been removed, removing the state’s authority to prosecute. in cases involving Native Americans on tribal lands.

In April, the Department of the Interior informed Stitt and the state that due to the Supreme Court’s decision, the federal government would assume mining jurisdiction over tribal lands, specifically the Muscogee Nation.

Stitt sued to stop him and told News on July 6 why.

“My concern is that McGirt was limited to criminal only,” Stitt said. “And so this is the first example of the Biden administration, a federal agency, coming in and extending that to civil regulations.”

Last week, a federal judge in the Western District of Oklahoma released a 19-page response to the state’s request.

In it, the judge makes it very clear that his decision is not about whether McGirt was decided correctly, and says the case is “a prime example of the devastation resulting from the McGirt decision.”

But he says “Oklahoma has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims.” And also that “this is a narrow decision interpreting a single federal law”.

Governor Stitt’s office said it has no further comment, but plans to continue challenging other aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision.

There are other trials pending.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation also sent this statement to News on 6 on Tuesday.

We commend the court for acknowledging that each of the state’s arguments in this case were flawed and for affirming that the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation meets the definition of “Indian Lands” under federal statutes that regulate surface coal mining operations.

The decision represents another court, another rejection of the Oklahoma governor’s obsessive assortment of challenges to basic principles of tribal sovereignty affirmed last year by the United States Supreme Court.

It’s high time for the Governor to end his stonewalling political campaign and start working with the tribes for the benefit of all Oklahomans.

Thelma J. Longworth