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Congress passes the Oak Flat land swap

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:56 am
by Matthew Roberts
The U.S. Senate has passed a measure friday authorizing the nation’s defense programs, and along with it managed to give away lands sacred to the Arizona San Carlos Apache to a foreign company that owns a uranium mine with Iran.
The $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 is one of the must-pass pieces of legislation that Congress moves every year. But like they did in attaching extraneous riders to the must-pass government funding bill, lawmakers used the defense bill as a vehicle to pass (hide) a massive public lands package including the Oak Flat Land swap.

Some of the land measures were popular. But one, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, (Oak Flat Land Swap) had twice failed to win support in the House of Representatives, blocked by conservationists and Native American's.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) mounted a bid to strip the entire lands package from the bill, but secured only 18 votes in his favor. Native Americans, particularly the San Carlos Apache tribe in the area, say digging a massive mine under their ancestral lands will destroy sacred ceremonial and burial grounds.
The measure was inserted into the NDAA thanks to the efforts of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who, along with fellow Arizona Republican R-Sen. Jeff Flake, sees the project as an economic boon for Rio Tinto.
Flake acknowledged that the deal never would have passed on its own stand alone proposal.
“It’s never good to see big packages with so many things hidden in them -- that’s what we want to get away from,” Flake said. “But it’s been very difficult to move individual pieces of legislation over the last few years.”
In this case, the addition of the Arizona land swap and the other land measures were never discussed in public, and were added during secret negotiations between the House and Senate Armed Services Committee. the deal was never publicly revealed until the House started work on passing the entire defense bill last week.
Rio Tinto, and Resolution Copper, will take possession of the land in one year. The land will then be private property and federal environmental reviews will no longer be enforceable.
“Resolution Copper Mining is pleased that the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act passed the House of Representatives and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. Passage of the legislation means that Resolution Copper can move forward with the development of this world-class ore body which will generate economic impact in state and federal tax payments,” said project director Andrew Taplin.

The heart of the legislation is the exchange of 2,400 acres of federally owned land above the copper deposit for 5,300 acres of land owned by Resolution Copper composed of valuable recreational, conservation and culturally significant land throughout Arizona. Protection of the historic Apache Leap, and safe access to the Oak Flat Campground after the exchange has been completed has been left up to Rio Tinto.

Re: Congress passes the Oak Flat land swap

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 9:04 am
by cubfan64
The "real" golden rule applies once again - "those with the most gold make the rules."

The years pass by and times change for all of us, but in the end the vast majority of us are merely pawns in a much bigger game. Every once in awhile enough of us can band together and force change, but it's a very rare occurrence.

I mourn the fact that I'm becoming much more cynical as I'm getting older. It's not just hyperbole when I say I have nights where some of this stuff weighs so heavily on my mind that I'm unable to sleep *sigh*

A bill or law that can't pass based on it's own merits should never pass in my opinion. I sympathize with those people of San Carlos and elsewhere who are facing the loss of a special place on earth for them. I hope the fight isn't over yet.

Re: Congress passes the Oak Flat land swap

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:46 am
by Space Cowboy
There's a bill I would support: "All bills placed before the House and Senate can address only one issue at a time, and cannot exceed 2,500 words". That would be roughly one page.