Chair Grijalva Leads Letter to Acting Sec. of Agriculture Urging Withdrawal of Flawed Analysis of Oak Flat Mining Project Rushed Out by Trump Admin

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a previously unannounced letter on Friday to acting Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Shea, signed by 21 House Democratic colleagues, urging the withdrawal of the U.S. Forest Service final environmental impact statement (FEIS) assessing the likely impacts of the proposed Resolution Copper mining project in central Arizona. The Trump administration rushed the document to publication on Jan. 15, just days before President Biden took office, and it suffers from legal flaws that require its withdrawal while Biden officials reconsider the agency’s approach, the lawmakers write.

Today’s letter is available online at http://bit.ly/3slg6pI, and a related analysis by the Inter-Tribal Association of Arizona is available at http://bit.ly/3pLCoyS. The unpopular mining proposal threatens to destroy the nearby Oak Flat site, which is sacred to several local Native American communities and a portion of which is now included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The issue is timely because the Trump administration recently published the FEIS under the terms of a land transfer mandate slipped into the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) handing over 2,422 acres of copper-rich Tonto National Forest land to Resolution Copper in exchange for other less valuable land elsewhere. That publication starts a 60-day public comment period, after which the land transfer will be final and mining preparations can begin.

The letter reads in part, “The Project will destroy Oak Flat, use massive amounts of water, harm local ground and surface waters, negatively impact imperiled species, and create a crater up to 1,000 feet deep and roughly 1.8 miles across. Any development of this scale requires a serious and comprehensive review.”

As the lawmakers point out, Section 3003 of the NDAA land exchange provision requires a legally compliant FEIS before the Forest Service can approve the land exchange. Because that requirement has not been met, the authors ask Sec. Shea to instruct the Forest Service to withdraw the FEIS to allow the Biden administration time to review and address implementation or administrative flaws.

The FEIS’ hasty preparation and lack of required analysis violated a number of federal laws and standards, including:

  • the National Environmental Policy Act
  • the Forest Service Organic Administration Act of 1897
  • the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
  • the Clean Water Act
  • the National Forest Management Act
  • the Clean Air Act
  • the Endangered Species Act
  • the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
  • Executive Order 13186 (January 11, 2001)
  • the Administrative Procedure Act

Chair Grijalva plans to introduce an updated version of his legislation to protect Oak Flat permanently from mining in the coming weeks.

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