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Public Statements

Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MARKEY. I thank the gentleman from Arizona for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, the New Deal was a jobs plan. President Obama has put forward a jobs plan.

H.R. 1904 is not a jobs plan. H.R. 1904 is a massive payout to multinational mining giants that are wearing a jobs plan as a disguise. That disguise is slipping. Real jobs are about making wise investments in businesses and technologies that put Americans to work. This bill just gives billions of dollars in copper to foreign mining companies for free.

Let's do the math. Estimates vary on the value of the copper from $2 billion to $7 billion or $8 billion. So let's just split the difference down the middle and say that the copper might be worth $5 billion. The jobs claims for this bill vary wildly as well from 500 to 5,000 jobs.

Now, there is a good reason to believe the jobs numbers will be on the very low end, but let's be optimistic and take the highest jobs claim possible.

So supporters of this bill are going to give away $5 billion in hopes of creating 5,000 jobs. Well, that's $1 million per job, Mr. Chairman, $1 million not paid necessarily to the workers themselves but to foreign mining giants. Now, is that the kind of wise investment that we need? I do not think so.

I think that we need some new jobs, but they should be real jobs. They should be here.

Much of the work that's going to be done in this mining is going to be done by robots. So there will be full employment for R2-D2 and for the transformers; but the total number of jobs here, very speculative and very expensive per job created. That's the real question here because I think many human beings are just going to remain unemployed under this plan.

And since it's a multinational that gets the benefits, there will be plenty of accountants and lawyers in London and Melbourne, all around the world, that will be employed, but in America, not so many. And those that are there, very expensive, especially since the per capita cost is very, very high.

Now, why do we know that? Well, we know it because Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton stand to pocket an enormous amount of money, billions of dollars, off of this deal.

So if you count the chauffeurs, if you count the food service workers in the executive dining rooms of these companies, well, you can see where there will be some jobs that are created if you're adding it up that way.

But the truth is, this is a windfall, a windfall, which is why I am going to make an amendment to charge a reasonable royalty for the privilege of mining this copper on public lands in the United States. And when the majority votes ``no'' on that, when the Republicans say, no, we don't want a royalty payment that can actually be collected by the American people, we'll see what the real aim of this is, which is to privatize this resource for multinational corporations without giving the full benefit to the American taxpayer for the copper which is mined.

Mr. Grijalva and Mr. Garamendi will offer an amendment to require local hiring and local ore processing and Make It in America, make it here and have Americans working here doing this work, people from Arizona itself. That's the real debate that we're going to have.

In conclusion, Mr. Luján as well will offer an amendment to protect Native American sacred sites from being destroyed by this bill. And when that is defeated as well by the majority, it will be painfully clear just how far they are willing to go to enrich these foreign corporations.

This should not be a Filene's Basement sale. This should not be a fire sale giving away American valuable copper resources to multinationals. We should be able to put a price tag on what the American people are getting from this bargain basement sale, this giveaway, without proper compensation given to the American taxpayer.

That's what this bill and the debate is going to be all about. It's whether or not, in fact, there is corporate profiteering at taxpayer expense, plain and simple, which is at the heart of this bill. History will record that when the public cried out for a jobs plan to put Americans back to work, what was put together was a retirement plan for executives at Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton that did not, in fact, get a return on investment for the American taxpayers.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, there are two versions of this land bill: one with the Markey amendment and one without the Markey amendment. The difference is the version with the Markey amendment is a deal the American taxpayers should take. Without my amendment, this is a deal that takes the taxpayers.

Without the Markey amendment, this land deal is a shell game, all about misdirection and surprise outcomes. We are urged to keep our eye on the beautiful surface acres the Federal Government would get in this deal and the unique payment scheme included in the bill. This is like the guy on the street who tells you to watch his right hand while his left hand is picking your pocket.

This is not about the surface. This is about the copper and whether Rio Tinto will have to pay its fair value. And the fact is the payment scheme in this bill is completely--let me say it again--the payment scheme in this bill is completely speculative. It will be based on information only the company has access to and is subject to serious manipulation.

In the end, Rio Tinto could end up paying absolutely nothing for the massive windfall they stand to receive from this legislation. With the Markey amendment, this bill is simple. It would require no guesswork on the part of the taxpayers. It would allow for no manipulation that could shortchange the American taxpayer.

My amendment strikes the convoluted payment scheme in this bill and replaces it with a simple 8 percent royalty on the copper produced each year from this mine. This is the American people's copper. It's not their copper. It's the American people's. What are they going to get out of this? How about 8 percent? Can we give the taxpayer 8 percent?

Now, we don't know how much copper exactly is down there. The benefit of my amendment is we don't need to know ahead of time. If Rio Tinto makes $1, then they owe the taxpayer a nickel and three pennies, and if they make $8 billion, the Treasury gets $640 million.

Now, the company will argue a royalty is unfair. Well, guess who is already paying royalties, Mr. Chairman. Oil and gas companies pay 12.5 percent when they drill on the taxpayers' land. 12.5 percent, that's what ExxonMobil pays. That's what Shell pays. But do you know who else pays the royalty? Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton when they mine on State land. So, if you're in Colorado, you're in Wyoming and you're on State land, you're paying a royalty. But, no, let's go to the American taxpayers' land. Those same companies that pay to the States don't pay to Uncle Sam.

And the revenue from a royalty is money we can use. What can we use the money for? Make sure we don't have to cut Medicare payments for Grandma. Make sure we have student loans for kids to be able to go to college. That's what the money should be used for. Should it just be pocketed by Rio Tinto, by these companies?

So I ask my colleagues, which deal do you want to go home with and tell your constituents you were for? The deal where they got some nice lands in Arizona while a foreign mining company got billions in copper, or the deal where they got the land plus hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty payments for the U.S. taxpayer?

With the Markey amendment, we in Congress are responsible stewards doing our due diligence to protect the Federal Treasury to get the taxpayer what they're owed. Without the Markey amendment, this House looks like the old Keystone Kops, bumbling around in circles while billions walk right out the door that should be in the pockets of every taxpayer in this country.

We have a supercommittee debating how much they're going to cut poor people, students, national defense, what we're going to spend on the protection of our country, and how many policemen we can afford to have. Meanwhile, out here on the House floor, we're going to turn a blind eye to billions of dollars just going right out the floor of the House here today into the pockets of Rio Tinto, into the pockets of a foreign corporation. That's not right.

Vote for the Markey amendment. Capture this money for the American taxpayer.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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