Arizona Senator Martha McSally went missing when Arizonans needed her the most. McSally voted to confirm the conflicted-ridden Secretary David Bernhardt, who became the subject of a multi-faceted investigation just four days after his confirmation, sending mixed messages about her stance concerning a dangerous open-pit copper mine outside of Tucson, Arizona.
Former mega-lobbyist and now-confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt previously lobbied for the Rosemont Copper Mine, with a proposed location near Tucson, and its parent company Hudbay Minerals, from 2011 until 2015. He remained a consultant to Hudbay until sometime in 2016, the Canadian mining company ultimately dishing out some $1.8 million in lobbying fees paid to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Bernhardt was not only a lobbyist for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck- he was a shareholder too.
Rosemont Copper Company, and its parent entity Hudbay Minerals- charged with the actual creation of the mine, as well as the financial oversight, respectively- appear on Bernhardt’s extensive list of recusals. Rosemont is also on the infamous notecard that Bernhardt carries to remind himself of all his impending conflicts of interest and when they expire.
The mine was opposed by a number of Arizona’s Congressional delegation, including Congressman Raul Grijalva, as well as officials in Pima County, and The Tohono O’odham, Pascua Yaqui and Hopi Native American tribes. It’s safe to say their constituents were not pleased to hear about the possibility of their public lands, waterways, wildlife, and historically sacred ground being destroyed for a copper company based in Canada.
And McSally had opposed the mine, too. She claimed to share the concerns of the Arizonans she represents. Though she wouldn’t draw a hard line in the sand, she was adamant about her worries: threats to water levels, threats to water quality and negative impacts on Arizona’s eco-tourism. But McSally’s concerns did not deter her support for Trump’s most conflicted cabinet member, who, along with six other Interior presidential appointees are now under investigation for potential lobbying and ethics violations.
McSally may have only grew mine-weary when she realized the proposed mine was within 25 miles of her 18-acre plot. She grew concerned that, with the creation of an invasive open-pit mine, her land would devalue. With that concern top of mind, McSally decided to make it clear that the Rosemont project did not fit her American Dream.
Martha McSally owns 18.23 acres of “physically unchanged vacant land” in the Elgin Estates subdivision (parcel number 10919004B). She purchased it in 2006 for $188,000. [Santa Cruz County, accessed 02/28/19]
But that wasn’t enough to stop McSally from voting against her own ‘concerns’ or even attempt to ask the mine’s former lobbyist and nominee for Secretary of the Interior, Bernhardt, a question about it during his confirmation hearing.
Interior played a key role in reviewing and ultimately approving the Rosemont Copper Mine. The mine is next to the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns and manages this area. Some BLM officials voiced their concerns that the new mine would drain underground aquifers, in addition to affecting the area’s endangered species. Those concerns appear to have been silenced as the mine cleared its last administrative hurdle when the U.S. Forest Service approved the company’s operations plan without objections by BLM or Interior officials.
What will happen now that Secretary Bernhardt has been confirmed with the help of McSally?
McSally knew of Interior’s crucial role in the approval of the open-pit copper mine. She knew Trump’s Interior, now led by Bernhardt, had a track record of stripping away public lands protections, approving dangerous mines, and working to appease outside special interests. She also knew Bernhardt had lobbied for the mine’s approval, and that he was financially interested in its success.
But when McSally was given the chance to stand up for her constituents and protect public lands in Arizona, her true colors were revealed: she voted to confirm Bernhardt, announcing to all Arizonans that outside mineral interests are more important than the land she was tasked with protecting.
McSally’s actions speak for themselves. Her vote perpetuates a swamp culture at Interior that has been plagued by scandal and corruption at the expense of Arizona’s outdoor heritage.