As the Congress lurches to a close with few concrete accomplishments, we can thank much of the Arizona congressional delegation for ensuring that the 113th Congress wasn’t a total waste.
Thanks to a master stroke of legislative skill by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake in the lame-duck session’s waning days, language that would permit an historic land exchange in Superior, Arizona was included the defense authorization bill, which passed Friday and is now on the president’s desk.
The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Conservation Act, originally introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in the House, allows for over 5,300 acres of land to come under federal stewardship in exchange for over 2,000 acres of forest land that contains the largest undeveloped copper resource in the world, offering an incredible economic opportunity to Arizona.
This bill means jobs. Once the mining operation is up and running, it will mean $61 billion in economic value and contribute $20 billion in tax revenue, about $6 billion of that headed for state coffers. In addition to the benefits to the local, state and federal government, the mine stands to provide 3,700 direct and indirect jobs that result in just over $220 million in annual wages.
The American people win under this legislation not only because of the jobs that will result, but because the exchange also ensures the protection of endangered species, preservation of key riparian habitats, and conservation of some of Arizona’s most valuable lands. The provision will also advance the United States’ strategic national defense interests, by increasing domestic production of the mineral the Pentagon classifies as “essential” to national defense.
Passage of this bill was a long time coming, with this version’s introduction dating back to February 2013. Rep. Gosar, Rep. Kirkpatrick and their House colleagues deserve kudos for their determination to get this bill across the finish line.
The mining project that will now go forward solidifies Arizona’s place as the Copper State. Sen. McCain, Sen. Flake, Rep. Gosar, Rep. Kirkpatrick and the rest of the delegation have earned our thanks.