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ICYMI: Top House Republicans to Unveil Mine Permitting Plan
By Jael Holzman | E&E News

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 22, 2022 -

House Republicans will roll out a major minerals permitting bill Thursday, hoping to show a contrast with Democrats, who are divided on whether to streamline government approvals for extraction projects.

The "Securing American Mineral Supply Chains Act" from House Natural Resources ranking member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) suggests how the party would speed up U.S. mining permits if Republicans take back the House after the November midterms.

Westerman, who is poised to chair the committee if the GOP takes the House, said he and other Republicans crafted the legislation against a "not-in-my-backyard mentality" to mineral development in the United States.

"I think this will fit in nicely with Republicans’ commitment to America,"Westerman said in an interview.

The United States relies heavily on imported minerals for clean energy development, weapons systems and other technologies. That's why Congress included funding for domestic mine development in the bipartisan infrastructure law. The Inflation Reduction Act also includes provisions to encourage U.S. mining.

President Joe Biden has doubled down on a made-in-America approach to mining that has unleashed potentially billions of dollars in financing for minerals and metals companies hoping to dig in the United States.

But many Democrats in Congress have been less willing to give in on making it easier to permit extractive projects, citing the dirty legacy of mining and remaining environmental issues. They're also increasingly worried about frontline communities.

Those divisions have cast a pall over a permitting overhaul proposal from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), which Democratic leadership has promised to pursue but that faces long odds.

Republicans are eager to highlight Democratic infighting on mining, especially following passage of the budget reconciliation climate bill.

"If you’re going to build windmills and solar panels and electric cars, you have to have these components, and they’re coming from somewhere," Westerman said. "We can be more responsible in extracting and using these resources than any place else in the world, plus it provides us with national security and growth in our economy instead of exporting our wealth."

The legislation would prohibit mineral withdrawals on federal lands unless the government produces a study saying restrictions would not harm U.S. supply chains, the fact sheet said.

The bill would also prohibit the government from reversing an existing lease, permit or claim for a mining project that could produce at least one mineral designated as "critical."

The legislation includes proposals similar to provisions in Manchin's permitting overhaul released Wednesday night, including a time clock on permitting decisions. It would also take a wider approach to giving federal agencies flexibility with what kinds of permits they need to issue for mining projects.

The EPA, for example, would be allowed to waive any requirement it wants under the Clean Air Act for a mineral refinery or processing plant if it considers that project's construction to be in the national interest.

Westerman said he believes House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his team will be "very dependent" on committee chairs for policy proposals like the minerals bill.

"This is not going to be a surprise to them," Westerman said.

Earlier this week Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), ranking member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, introduced his own permitting bill, H.R. 8928, known as the "Permitting for Mining Needs Act."

The legislation also bears a resemblance to Manchin's measure, as it includes timetables for permitting decisions and would likewise create a deadline for judicial review on those approvals. Stauber has sought to position himself as a leader on mining issues.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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