Choctaw Nation receives nealry $2 million in cleanup, climate grants

Nov. 1—DURANT — Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said federal grants totaling nearly $2 million will help make a lasting impact on the well-being of tribal members.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma received more than $1.9 million dollars in cleanup and climate grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Funding for the grants comes from the bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act signed into law in August 2022.

"The Choctaw Nation is a reliable partner with a strong environmental program that is well prepared to leverage these grants, made possible by the historic amounts of funding available through the Biden-Harris Administration's Investing in America agenda," said EPA Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. "EPA is proud to continue working with the Nation on restoring abandoned Brownfields properties and finding solutions for the climate crisis."

Batton said the Choctaw Nation understands the importance of being good environmental stewards.

"Support from the EPA enables us to continue implementing sustainable practices that benefit both our tribal members and the surrounding communities, making a lasting impact on the well-being of our people and the land we call home," Batton said.

The EPA awarded the Choctaw Nation a Brownsfield Cleanup Grant in the amount of $1.57 million. According to the EPA, a brownsfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant, with more than 450,000 sites around the U.S.

The Choctaw Nation is using the grant for several projects, including a site assessment and cleanup of the old Talihina Indian Hospital campus. The hospital was first built in the 1930s before it was closed following the completion of the new Choctaw Nation hospital.

"We've all grew up in Indian Country, and there's a lot of places that we've just learned to live with," said Tye Baker, senior director of Environmental Protection Services for the Choctaw Nation. "We don't need to be in those conditions. Those environmental conditions are affecting our health and affecting the learning capabilities of our children. There are so many things that we've just learned to live with that we don't have to do that anymore and thanks to these types of grants, we can go in and clean up these conditions, we can assess the environmental hazards there, and then take a look at how to fix them."

The tribe was also the recipient of a $400,000 Climate Pollution Reduction Grant to be used to help reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution.

"There's a lot of emissions coming up from Dallas. There's a lot of emissions being produced within our reservation," Baker said. "We want to work and find the best way to reduce that pollution and be respectful of our tribal members and our families here. Because we want to sustain the best environment, the best quality of life and the economy, so that we can all live together for many more generations."