McGirt strikes again—Oklahoma loses mining enforcement fight

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Oklahoma lost a challenge in federal court to continue its regulation of coal mining operations on the Creek Reservation in eastern Oklahoma—thanks to the Supreme Court McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling that said the Reservation had never been disestablished.

In a ruling issued last week, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld previous decisions that went against Oklahoma’s regulatory powers regarding the mining operations on the reservation.

Oklahoma challenged a decision of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement which eventually determined that the land comprising the Creek, Choctaw and Cherokee Reservations includes all the surface coal mining and reclamation activities that take place in the state.

The challenge by the state was made last year after a federal judge determined Oklahoma was not likely to succeed in its fight.

In its recent ruling, the Appeals Court made it clear the decision it reached applied only to the “straight-forward application of the federal surface mining legislation to Indian lands” and is not “relevant to other situations in the realm of civil law” outside the federal surface mining legislation.