More than one year after the US Supreme Court's historic ruling in McGirt vs. Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt claims the Biden administration is already incorrectly expanding it and he's now taking them to court.
A 27-page federal lawsuit filed in the Western District of Oklahoma Monday morning, claims the US Department of the Interior is breaking the law by taking surface coal mining jurisdiction away from Oklahoma, something the state has controlled since 1981.
The Interior Department claims because of the McGirt ruling, it now has that jurisdiction on the Muscogee Nation Reservation. The Governor, along with the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, though disagree and call it federal overreach.
"This is the first example of the Biden administration, a federal agency, coming in and expanding this to civil regulations," said Governor Kevin Stitt, in an interview with News on 6 earlier this month.
Stitt told News on 6 in that interview, the Biden administration is misinterpreting what the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt and that the narrow decision only applies to federal criminal law, not civil matters like mining.
"Where does this stop?" the Governor asked earlier this month. "You talk about agriculture, zoning, everything is up in question, taxation,"
The lawsuit, which also lists the Oklahoma Department of Mines and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission as plaintiffs, is asking for declaratory judgments, injunctions, and for the Interior Department to vacate its notice. The lawsuit says if action is not taken, the ODM and OCC will have to lay off employees and the state will lose millions of dollars in grant money.
The Interior Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.
A representative of the Muscogee Nation told News on 6 previously that the tribe disagrees with the Governor's interpretation of the Supreme Court decision.
This story is part of the Oklahoma Media Center’s Promised Land collaborative effort, which shows how the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma decision will affect both tribal and non-Indigenous residents in the state.
It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Inasmuch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Democracy Fund. The print, digital and broadcast media partners include: CNHI Oklahoma, Cherokee Phoenix, Curbside Chronicle, The Frontier, Gaylord News, Griffin Communications, KFOR, KGOU, KOSU, The Lawton Constitution, Moore Monthly, Mvskoke Media, the Native American Journalists Association, NonDoc, The O’Colly, Oklahoma City Free Press, The Oklahoma Eagle, Oklahoma Gazette, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Watch, Osage News, StateImpact Oklahoma, Tulsa World, Telemundo Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Student Media and Verified News Network.