The Oak Flat example of politicians disrespecting Native Americans and the environment

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Aug 03, 2016 The Oak Flat example of politicians disrespecting Native Americans and the environment

Repeatedly we read of major pieces of budgetary and other big federal legislation in which Congressional members successfully slip in riders to the legislation that likely would never have been considered or else never passed on their own merits. These riders can involve pork barrel project financing, and a whole host of other items.

The legislative riders apparently often bypass discussion and debate on the full Senate or House floor. They often get added last moment to legislation that is already so voluminous even without riders, that one is left to wonder how many Congressmembers even read the legislation without the riders, let alone with the riders. Mind you, legislation can be very tedious to read, often including references back to other legislation being edited by the new legislation, where one is left to wonder how many Congressmembers also look at the referenced pre-existing legislation, and consult with the right lawyers or other appropriate specialists to understand the legislation.

This entire legislative rider culture seems to become a cat-and-mouse game between its proponents and sponsors, and potential and actual opponents inside and outside of Congressional members who catch wind of the rider. Some Congressmembers get re-elected less for any legislative or policy acumen and positions, other than their ability to bring jobs and federal money to their districts through legislative riders and other maneuvers.

As much as I help to achieve justice one client at a time in court, court battle alone will not achieve justice. To achieve full justice, we must push from both inside and outside the governmental system with all branches of government at the federal, state and local levels. That is a tall order, to say the least.

Consider all the reprehensible pieces of legislation and government agency regulations that get proposed and passed that we never learn of before the legislation gets passed and signed into law.  One could spend all day trying to monitor such legislative and regulatory actions and still constantly play catch up at best. If that is so in this Internet age, consider how much harder it was to timely track legislative and regulatory efforts and actions before the Internet existed.

I was recently reminded of the legislative monster when learning one year late about the success that Arizona’s senators had in December 2014 in adding a legislative rider to the defense reauthorization bill (signed into law by President Obama) that had failed on its own merits through previous efforts in Congress.  The rider involved opening the Oak Flat Apache Indian tribal land — which plenty of tribal members claimed to be sacred land — to a foreign corporation with ties to the Iranian government (going back to the Shah of Iran’s time) to permit copper mining.

Fortunately, the Obama Administration earlier in 2016 put an obstacle in this mining plan by getting the land listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That designation alone apparently will not prevent the copper mining, but is a hurdle against such mining.

Particularly where the Arizona senators’ Oak Flat legislative effort had failed on its own, it is offensive to say the least that the same senators circumvented this failure by getting it attached as a legislative rider apparently without legislative debate, particularly when considering the Indians who consider Oak Flat to be sacred land, the environmental issues surrounding copper mining, and any connection the rider has to the Iranian government that is no protector of human rights nor world peace.

To those who proudly say they avoid reading the news to avoid the negative energy it often brings, I respond that by doing so, you make the work easier of people who want to do harmful things without many obstacles on their path.

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