Over Easy: 2015 NDAA Will Give Apache Ancestral Land to a Foreign Mining Company
Last week, the House passed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and attached a rider on page 1105 that would give 2400 acres of National Forest that is cherished ancestral Native American land in southeast Arizona to a subsidiary of a large international mining conglomerate. The defense bill, with this and various other land deals included in it, will now go to the Senate on a fast-track for passage. The Bill is called the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act.
The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act is “business-as-usual,” ICTMN columnist Steve Newcomb commented. “This legislation, with its Orwellian title, demonstrates perfectly the United States’ lack of sincerity when it comes to ‘implementing’ the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and when it comes to protecting the sacred and culturally sensitive places of our original nations,” Newcomb said. “It’s business-as-usual for the United States when it comes to corporatizing such sensitive areas on behalf of foreign corporations such as Rio Tinto. Clearly, this is but one more example of the impact of the doctrine of Christian discovery and domination.”
The land swap bill, called the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 (H.R. 687), was attached as a rider to the annual must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with several other land-related bills.
If approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama, the land swap legislation will allow Resolution Copper Co., a subsidiary of the controversial international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected public land in the Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state. Resolution Copper plans a massive deep underground copper mine using a technique called block caving in which a shaft is drilled more than a mile deep into the earth and the material is excavated without any reinforcement of the extraction area. Block caving leaves the land above vulnerable to collapse.
Is it possible to prevent legislation like this, when it is attached to the 2015 NDAA?
The President can veto a proposed law but he does not have the power to do a “line veto.” In other words, he can’t go line by line and say, “I want this but I don’t want that.”
This NDAA is a funding bill that appropriates money to the military. The attached provision that gives away land that is sacred to the Apaches is unrelated to the military- that’s why they call it a “rider.” If the Senate passes this bill and it goes to Obama, he cannot veto the whole thing without being accused of knifing the military in the back. He can’t surgically excise Congress’s pet projects otherwise known as “pork” because that would be a “line veto.” He can either sign the whole thing as-is, or he can veto it- then it would go back to the House to redo it.
In other words, it’s a trap.
There have been proposals in the past, to give the President “line veto” power. These proposals generally go nowhere because Congress never agrees to it. There is also a provision attached to the bill that says the Senate can’t change anything in this bill. There’s millions of dollars of pork in lots of things, but this one really takes the breath away.
Creative Commons photo courtesy Philip Capper on Flickr