HOLLYWOOD — Chairman James E. Billie welcomed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 Administrator Heather McTeer Toney to Tribal Headquarters Jan. 14 for a meeting to discuss issues important to the Tribe.
It was the first visit for Toney, who was appointed regional administrator in January 2014 by President Barack Obama. She is responsible for protecting human health and the environment in the Southeastern U.S., which includes six Tribes. Region 4 is the most populated and diverse of the 10 regions, according to the EPA.
“We were excited to meet her,” Chairman Billie said. “We like to meet people we work with face-to- face.”
Issues facing the Tribe include water quality, climate change, environmental justice, water treaty rights and air quality.
“The biggest issue is how the EPA can help us with water quality challenges in Big Cypress and Brighton and how they can help us uphold our rights under the water compact [with the state] and maintain federally recognized water quality standards,” said Cherise Maples, director of the Environmental Resource Management Department.
Since 1987, the Tribe has maintained a water rights compact with the state and an agreement with the South Florida Water Management District. In 1996, the EPA gave the Tribe the right to set its own water standards on Tribal land.
“We plan to be a bigger presence than we have been,” Toney said. “We want to give as much assistance as we can. The meeting gave me a lot of insight; it was good to hear the EPA is one of the agencies the Tribe has a very good relationship with. We will continue to develop that relationship even stronger.”