Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar introduced legislation Friday to facilitate a long-stalled land exchange between the federal government and an international mining conglomerate in southeastern Arizona.
The freshman Republican is the latest first district lawmaker to take up the cause of the land exchange, which has remained in legislative limbo in Congress because of an environment-versus-jobs debate.
The exchange would turn over a protected area to copper mining for the first time. It's opposed by environmentalists and Apache Indians who consider the land sacred. Advocates for the exchange say it will bring thousands of jobs to the economically depressed area.
Gosar called his version of the legislation a "very, very good bill."
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz..), who is seeking a rematch with Gosar after losing to him in November 2010, said she's reserved judgment on the Republican's legislation.
"I'm curious to see what his legislation looks like," she said. "Especially in terms of what kind of environmental compliance he's addressing."
One of the main differences between Gosar and Kirkpatrick's bills is that the Republican's requires an environmental impact assessment to be done after the land is conveyed to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton, rather than before.
Kirkpatrick, who championed the bill during her two-year term, said the exchange is an issue for people in the sprawling 1st district, but didn't think getting it passed would have prevented her defeat to Gosar.
"It would have not have changed the election results," Kirkpatrick said.
"I worked very hard at trying to get that out of committee. It was moving, I think we could have gotten it done this term, had I been reelected," she added.
Kirkpatrick was in Washington this week preparing for her rematch with Gosar.
The Arizona land exchange was originally pushed by former Rep. Rick Renzi, Kirkpatrick’s predecessor in the House. But Renzi wanted land owned by one of his supporters included in the exchange and Resolution Copper balked. The Republican was subsequently indicted, which ended his political career. The legislation, tainted by association, died.
--Updated at 10:55 p.m.