In a case decided on Oct. 18, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that the Village of Hobart, Wisconsin, could not apply stormwater fees to tribal lands. Hobart established the fee in 2007 across all parcels to pay for the construction and operation of a stormwater management system. However, Oneida tribal lands encompassed 6.6% of the village’s land and are scattered throughout. Since Federal law prohibits states from taxing or regulating pollution on tribal lands, Hobart sought federal authorization through a Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the appeals court, EPA delegates stormwater permitting authority to states, but states are not authorized to regulate stormwater on tribal lands. EPA can, however, give Indian governments the ability to regulate stormwater on their own lands. The appeals court also determined that the stormwater fee is a tax, and states and local authorities cannot tax tribal lands. See the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.