Cooperating Agency Status
One of the ways to even the playing field between your organization or village and the mining company is to ask to be named a Cooperative Agency to the action being considered. Cooperating agencies work with the lead agency to provide perspectives, opinions, and expertise in the development of an Environmental Impact Statment and Health Impact Assessment. Becoming a cooperating agency can give tribes direct and early involvement in key decisions. These include the scope of the EIS or HIA, the nature of the alternatives considered, and the degree of public involvement. As a cooperating agency, tribes have the opportunity to both shape the process and educate the agency on the impact of a proposed project.
Part of becoming a cooperative agency is becoming an equal at the table. This is a double edged sword. Legitimately, it can be argued that Tribal concerns and ties to the land are above the federal government’s ties to the land, but regardless, you will be viewed as an equal. The Village may be tasked to perform certain duties as a party to the agreement and these will be obligations that must be met. Furthermore, as an equal, the other agencies at the table may not respect certain protocols such as interrupting when someone is speaking.
Another, less involved approach would be to request that the Village be seated as a consultant to the permitting process especially in respect to sacred sites, Cultural values and subsistence.At the very least, the Village should be sure that they are identified as a stakeholder in the permitting process, if the mine gets that far, and will be provided notice of actions and be consulted during the process. This will allow you to comment on draft proposals, offer alternatives and set the stage for litigation if the need (hopefully not) arises due to damage to your interests.
- USFS Cooperating Agency Guidance Take notice of the “special expertise’ mention in question #1 under “Questions and Answers.” This is where traditional knowledge of the land, its physical resources and value to Culture is very important. Government agencies will not or may not have this information.
- BLM Cooperative Agency Rule The rule begins at the bottom of the first column on the first page. It provides the BLM’s definition of cooperating agency and cooperating agency status and explains the role of cooperating agencies in the various steps of BLM’s planning process.
- NEPA Forty Most Asked Questions, Question 14, Rights and Responsibilities of Lead and Cooperating Agencies
- 14a. Rights and Responsibilities of Lead and Cooperating Agencies. What are the respective rights and responsibilities of lead and cooperating agencies? What letters and memoranda must be prepared?
- 14b. How are disputes resolved between lead and cooperating agencies concerning the scope and level of detail of analysis and the quality of data in impact statements?
- 14c. What are the specific responsibilities of federal and state cooperating agencies to review draft EISs?
- 14d. How is the lead agency to treat the comments of another agency with jurisdiction by law or special expertise which has failed or refused to cooperate or participate in scoping or EIS preparation?
- Factors for Determining Whether to Invite, Decline or End Cooperating Agency Status (Council on Environmental Quality)
- Memorandum for tribal leaders:Cooperating agencies in implementing the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (2002).
- Memorandum for the heads of federal agencies: Cooperating agencies in implementing the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (2002).
- Memorandum for the heads of federal agencies: Reporting cooperating agencies in implementing the Procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (2004)
- Designation of non-federal agencies to be cooperating agencies in implementing the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (1999). This is a memorandum from the Council on Environmental Quality to the heads of federal agencies.
(Content Derived from Alaska Community Action on Toxics)