Chair Grijalva, Rep. Lowenthal Urge Biden Administration Not to Use the Defense Production Act to Increase Mining

Washington, D.C. – Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif), Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, today sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden following reports that the administration plans to issue an executive order using authorities under the Defense Production Act to increase mining on U.S. public lands.

The lawmakers issued the following statements on sending the letter:

“As it turns out, the oil and gas industry isn’t the only one taking advantage of tragedy in Ukraine.” Chair Grijalva said. “Like their fossil fuel peers, mining companies are making opportunistic pleas to advance a decades-old mining agenda that lets polluters off the hook and leaves Americans suffering the consequences. We share the administration’s goal of sourcing materials needed for our clean energy future in a way that is responsible and sustainable. Fast-tracking mining under antiquated standards that put our public health, wilderness, and sacred sites at risk of permanent damage just isn’t the answer.

"Using American resources to fuel our clean energy future makes sense," Rep. Lowenthal said. "Allowing those resources to be mined using the standards in a 150-year old law doesn't. Allowing this mining to proceed with current antiquated rules would shortchange the taxpayers, endanger the environment, and threaten the public health of millions of Americans. When it comes to tapping these resources, we need to be careful, deliberate, and most of all wise."

As described in the letter, mining activities are the number one source of toxic pollution in the United States. More than 75 percent of all mines fail to meet water quality standards and the EPA has found that 40 percent of all watersheds in the western United States are contaminated by hardrock mine drainage. The threat to Indigenous communities is especially significant; the vast majority of nickel, copper, lithium, and cobalt reserves are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations and tribal lands.

Despite these well-documented harms to the environment and human health, the mining industry still operates under the outdated standards of the 150-year-old Mining Law of 1872. Under this statute, companies mining on public lands pay no federal royalties and are not held financially responsible for cleaning up the tens of thousands of toxic abandoned mine sites scattered across the United States.

Both Congress and the Biden administration have recently taken steps to responsibly strengthen domestic critical mineral supply chains, including the launch of an interagency working group to examine deficiencies with federal mining safeguards.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on July 17, 2021 examining the toxic legacy of the Mining Law of 1872 and the need to strengthen environmental safeguards for mining. Chair Grijalva plans to reintroduce comprehensive legislation to reform the outdated mining law later this spring.

Press Contact

Media Contact: Lindsay Gressard

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 740-4715 mobile