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EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations

Regional Tribal Ombudsman

Ombudsman Roles and Responsibilities
The Regional Tribal Ombudsman position was created in 2003 and is located in the Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs. The Ombudsman serves as a neutral liaison between tribes and EPA for informally resolving conflicts, and is a channel for improved communication between tribes and EPA. The Ombudsman does not have decision making authority. In addition to other duties assigned, the Ombudsman:
  • Facilitates communication between tribal representatives and program personnel.
  • Clarifies issues, corroborate findings and mediates issues before they are elevated.
  • Advises and has access to senior management on resolution options once issues are elevated.
  • Keeps abreast of all issues with tribal implications that have the potential to be elevated.
  • Participates in Intertribal Resource Advisory Committee and Tribal Environmental Council of Oklahoma meetings.
  • Provides advice to R6 management and staff related to tribal and EPA protocols.

Standard Elevation Process

Pursuant to the federal trust responsibility and EPA's Indian Policy, Region 6 is committed to building cooperative partnerships with Tribes. As with any relationship, misunderstandings and disagreements may arise from time to time. EPA will seek to resolve issues in a timely manner with our tribal partners on a government-to-government basis. The following process is designed to effectively elevate issues through EPA and Tribal organizations in an effort to arrive at mutually agreeable solutions.

Elevation of an issue will typically follow this process:

  1. An issue is raised by a tribal Environmental Staff or Director to the appropriate EPA Project Officer or program staff. If it cannot be resolved at this level within 15 days, then
  2. The issue will be put in writing by the involved parties. EPA staff will elevate the issue to their supervisor(s) and management to seek a solution with Tribe's Environmental Director. If it cannot be resolved within 30 days, then
  3. The issue will be formally elevated through EPA Senior Staff and senior tribal management, with final elevation to the Regional Administrator and the appropriate Tribal leader. Resolution should be accomplished within 30 days.

Notes: (a) This elevation process is not applicable in cases of formal enforcement actions in which the tribe is a defendant. (b) If an EPA program has an issue with a tribe that needs resolution, program staff should contact the Ombudsman for assistance in negotiating with tribal staff. If it remains unresolved after 30 days, the Division Director should work with the OEJTA Director to communicate directly with tribal leaders. Negotiations with tribes should incorporate respect for cultural protocols. These can be determined with the assistance of the Ombudsman, Associate Director for Tribal Affairs, and OEJTA Director.

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