Nestled three thousand feet off the desert bottom near Superior, Arizona, sits 2,000 jobs buried under the earth. These jobs are not temporary or seasonal, they are well-paying blue- collar jobs that will last for the next 50 years. And if your voice is not heard now, then these jobs will be gone forever.
Work is one of the most important things we do as residents of Pinal County. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” It is through work that we provide our families with life’s necessities. For most of us, we work for someone else, be it a private employer or the state or local government. Some of us have had the fortune to create jobs, which is why the opportunity that I am about to discuss is so rare.
You, yes, every single one of you Pinal County residents, have the opportunity to create 2,000 jobs for the next 50 years. Tucked into the 3.5 trillion-dollar reconciliation bill, that both sides of Congress are debating right now, is a provision to stop the jobs that President Barack Obama approved in 2014, that allows Resolution Copper Mine to open. The provision is called H.R.
1884 and it must be removed from the budget reconciliation bill to get these jobs. I ask each of you to write to your representatives and ask that this language be removed.
Federal Law Requires the Land Exchange
In 2014 President Obama signed into law a land exchange that would allow Resolution Copper to operate outside of Superior, Arizona. Over the subsequent seven years, the United States Department of Agriculture conducted numerous studies with input from the public and various federal, state, and local agencies. Public Law 113-219 authorized the land exchange after the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the President all agreed that the land exchange should take place after considering the impact to the environment, the various Tribes, and the compelling government interest in the mine.
The federal law mandates that Resolution Copper shall be conveyed the land, “Not later than 60 days after the date of publication of the final environmental impact statement…” 16
U.S.C. § 539p(c)(3). The Final Environmental Impact Statement was completed on Jan. 15, 2021, which means that Resolution Copper should have been conveyed the land on or before March 15, 2021. Instead, the USDA chose not to follow federal law.
The USDA has become a Law unto Themselves.
The USDA unilaterally decided that it was not going to comply with federal law when it withdrew the Final Environmental Impact Statement on March 1, 2021. It is acting like a rogue agency with the unilateral power to change federal law outside of Congress and the President of the United States. To be clear, 16 U.S.C. § 539p(c)(3) has been the law of the United States since it was approved on Dec. 19, 2014. Here is how it happened, starting from the most recent events, and an explanation as to why the USDA became political when it withdrew the Environmental Impact Statement.
On March 1, 2021, the United States Forest Service withdrew its Final Environmental Impact Statement published Jan. 15, 2021. This occurred in a little-known location called the Federal Register, which is a journal of all federal agency actions. Here is the March 1, 2021, entry:
EIS No. 20210005, Final, USFS, AZ,
WITHDRAWN—Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange, Contact:
Mary Rasmussen 602–225–5200. Revision to FR Notice Published 01/ 15/2021; Officially Withdrawn per request of the submitting agency.
Dated: March 1, 2021.
According to the United States Forest Service (USFS), it was required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to withdraw its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The USDA justified the withdrawal by citing a Presidential Memorandum from President Joe Biden dated Jan. 26, 2021.1 Strangely, the Presidential Memorandum makes no mention of Resolution Copper, Arizona, the land exchange, Oak Flat, or anything to do with the aforementioned project. The Presidential Memorandum merely reiterates President Obama’s Policy on Strengthening Tribal Relationships that had been in place since 2000:
To this end, Executive Order 13175 of Nov. 6, 2000 (Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments) charges all executive departments and agencies with engaging in regular, meaningful, and robust, consultation with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal implications…The Presidential Memorandum of November 5, 2009 (Tribal Consultation), requires each agency to prepare and periodically update a detailed plan of action to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175. This memorandum reaffirms the policy announced in that memorandum (emphasis added).
In other words, the Presidential Memorandum demands that all executive agencies act in accordance with President Obama’s policies. Interestingly, it was President Obama that signed the Resolution Copper land exchange into law, so who in the USDA is holding 2,000 jobs and 113 million in tax revenue2 to Arizona hostage? The USDA clearly is using the Presidential Memorandum as a subterfuge to refuse to follow the law. The United States Forest Service followed President Obama’s directives in getting Tribal input throughout the entire land exchange process over the past seven years. The United States is a nation of laws that should be followed and enforced, and it certainly is not the job of the USDA to choose which laws to follow and which ones it can brush aside on the Federal Register.
Copper is an Absolute Necessity.
The Resolution Copper mine will not only bring thousands of jobs for the next 50 years, but it will also supply as much as 40 billion tons of copper. A couple more numbers for comparison: domestic mine production of copper was 102,000 metric tons year-to-date through March 2021.3 The Resolution Copper mine will produce approximately 132,000 tons per day of ore.4 Copper is a high demand commodity needed by Arizona and the rest of the nation to transition to renewable energy. Just one ton of copper brings functionality to 40 cars, 100,000 mobile phones, distributes electricity to 30 homes, and enables operation of 400 computers.5
The world uses 28 million tons of copper per year.6 This means that the Resolution Copper mine will have the capability to supply the world with copper long into the future. Opening the mine will make Superior, Arizona the copper capital of the world.
Write Your Arizona Congressional Leaders – Now!
My name is Kevin Cavanaugh and I sit on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors representing District 1, the jurisdiction of this project. I ask that every person in the Copper Corridor join me in writing to every member of the Arizona Congressional Delegation to request removal of H.R.1884 language, the “Save Oak Flat Bill” from the House of Representatives $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. Please create Arizona jobs!
• The Honorable Senator Mark Kelly 516 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Nick_Matiella@kelly.senate.gov
• The Honorable Senator Kyrsten Sinema 317 Hart Senate Office Building Washington D.C. 20510 Michelle_Davidson@sinema.senate.gov
• The Honorable Representative Tom O’Halleran 318 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 firstname.lastname@example.org
• The Honorable Representative Greg Stanton 207 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 email@example.com
• The Honorable Representative Ann Kirkpatrick 309 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 firstname.lastname@example.org
/s/ Kevin Cavanaugh
Pinal County Board of Supervisors District 1
1 March 1, 2021 – USDA Framing Paper – USDA Tribal Consultation
6 US Geological Survey, 2020