Oklahoma congressman Kevin Hern was among several Republican members of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples who boycotted a hearing that Democratic leadership refused to stop because of the coronavirus.
Hern and the others were upset because tribal leaders who were directly affected by the hearing on Arizona’s Resolution Copper project could not travel because of the spread of the virus. Democrats in control of the subcommittee proceeded anyway with the hearing entitled “The Irreparable Environmental and Cultural Impacts of the Proposed Resolution Copper Mining Operation.”
The Republican members of the Subcommittee acted in unison, refusing to participate in a hearing where key witnesses – the tribal leaders whose communities are impacted by the Proposed Resolution Copper Mining Operation and Representative Paul Gosar (AZ-04), whose district is largely affected by the subject of the hearing – could not attend due to travel restrictions and precautionary quarantines related to the coronavirus outbreak.
In the absence of these key witnesses, and after Natural Resources Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (UT-01) implored the Democrat majority to postpone the hearing to a time when the stakeholders could participate, Rep. Hern and his colleagues decided to boycott in protest.
The subcommittee, part of the House Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Arizona Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego.
Had Rep. Hern attended the hearing, his remarks would have focused on pointing out the many reasons why the hearing should have been postponed and calling for Democrat leaders to do what’s best for the tribes affected by Resolution Copper instead of what’s best for the environmental lobby.
His office released his prepared remarks in which he suggested the Democratic leadership, already opposed to the copper mining project were pulling an “end around” so supporters of the project could not testify.
“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to start by saying that I do not believe that this hearing will adequately cover the importance of this project. This is because key local witnesses were unable to attend due to a mix of restrictions. Frankly, I would rather this hearing be postponed so that we can hear from all involved and affected by this project, as it’s clear these voices have been silenced…
“I would hope this hearing is not a legislative end-around used to further the partisan priorities of the Majority, while not all voices are heard. Then again, the Chairman of this Committee spoke in opposition to the Resolution Copper mine just yesterday, so I guess his intention is clear.
“That said, America’s dependence on foreign minerals has reached historic levels. In fact, less than half of the mineral needs of U.S. manufacturing are mined here in the United States. Yet even still, my colleagues across the aisle want to stop the proposed Resolution Copper mine; a prime example of responsible development of our natural resources, and one of the world’s largest known undeveloped copper deposits.
“As a part of this responsible development, the U.S. Forest Service is in consultation with 11 Native American tribes. This not only matches the required high level of community consultation under NEPA, it exceeds it. If the Majority staff had invited the U.S. Forest Service today, they would have heard about this extensive consultation and about how this project has met all federal requirements…
“To emphasize this, I ask unanimous consent to place in the record a list of 63 tribal consultations going back as far as 2008, and the most recent one, this past January. I would also like to place in the record two letters, one from the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the other from the Yavapai-Apache Nation, both referencing their support and the fairness of the consultation process. Additionally, I’d like to note that a former tribal historian, Dale Miles, has made the assertion that this isn’t even a sacred site…
“It is clear that this hearing has not and will not adequately cover the importance of this project. Not only do we have a panel of biased voices, but we do not have a single elected official from a community near the project, or any representation from the Forest Service…
“If the majority really cared about the facts, this hearing would’ve been conducted in a completely different manner.”
· The Resolution Copper project located in Arizona is one of the world’s largest known undeveloped copper deposits.
· The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a high level of community consultation and involvement and formal “government-to-government” consultation with Native American tribes. The Forest Service is consulting with 11 Native American tribes.
· In 2018, the Forest Service, Native American Tribes, and Resolution Copper developed and implemented a first-of-its-kind Tribal Monitoring Program. The program employs more than 30 tribal members from seven tribes. Tribal members identify and record baseline environmental data and resources of cultural heritage value for the NEPA/EIS process.
· Consultation between the Forest Service and Native American Tribes led to a partnership implementing a multi-year conservation and restoration program of Emory Oak trees. The collaboration includes Resolution Copper and Northern Arizona University. Emory Oaks are traditionally and culturally significant to Apache and Yavapai Tribes. A tribal advisory council directs all activities associated with the conservation and restoration effort.
Source: Rep. Hern’s office