Reconciliation bill passes without Oak Flat legislation

Courtesy photo A bill to block the Resolution Copper Mine project, the Save Oak Flat Act, was not included in the final House version of the Build Back Better Act.

On Friday morning, Nov. 19 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), a budget reconciliation bill, in a 220-213 vote.

Among other things, the bill – which now heads to the Senate, where it is likely to be further revised - includes investments in clean, renewable energy, lowered prescription drug costs for senior citizens, and targeted measures to mitigate wildfires and droughts.

“This legislation truly invests in the health and well-being of our children and in rural Arizona families and tribal communities,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01). “This package brings long-overdue change to the systems we’ve undervalued for years, creating new jobs and opportunities for working Arizonans that will finally work to bring concrete solutions that deescalate the climate crisis.”

One thing the Build Back Better Act does not include is H.R. 1884, known as the Save Oak Flat Act, which would have blocked Rio Tinto’s Resolution Copper Mine project. The act aimed to overturn a 2014 bipartisan decision authorizing a land swap that would transfer public land on the proposed mine site to Rio Tinto in exchange for company-owned acreage.

On Sept. 9, 2021 the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee voted to include H.R. 1884, sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), in the larger bill. Grijalva’s office confirmed that it was not included in the final version of H.R. 5376, but had not commented further by press time.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, which opposes the mine project, contending that it would destroy sacred land at Oak Flat, did not immediately return a request for comment.

“As 2021 winds down and the mid-term Congressional elections ramp up, we all must continue to monitor the Save Oak Flat bill,” said Superior Mayor Mila Besich, who characterized it as “economically devastating.”

“At this time it has not been successfully included in other legislation,” Besich added. “The groundswell of letter writing and phone calls made a tremendous difference, and kept the bill out of the budget reconciliation legislation.”

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