Sen. Jake Garn's temper boiled over Wednesday after a fellow senator intimated Garn was orchestrating a land "giveaway" in Alaska to benefit Kennecott and its operations in Utah.
Garn, R-Utah, yelled as he paced, often slapped a desk for punctuation and continually glared at Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, during a long tirade on the Senate floor attacking Eastern senators who try to control federal lands in the West."Eastern Europe today is a lot more free than the Western United States is - absolutely unbelievable. So let's have a little understanding, buddy," he snapped at Metzenbaum.
All that started after Metzenbaum questioned whether the U.S. government might be cheated by a land swap proposed by Garn in an amendment to a bill reworking protection for Alaska's Tongass National Forest.
A group of mining companies - with Utah's Kennecott holding a 53 percent majority - would swap roughly 33,000 acres of surface forest land for about the same acreage of underground mining rights beneath federal land near an active mine on Alaska's Admiralty Island.
Metzenbaum said the government does not know the extent of the possible hidden wealth it was trading away and said he felt it was probably mostly in the interest of big mining companies. He wanted to stop the swap or study it more.
Garn countered that Kennecott also doesn't know the wealth - or lack of it - that it is trading for but in exchange is giving up rain forest land for protection that benefits the United States.
He also vented years of frustration with Eastern bureaucrats and congressmen who make developing the West difficult.