H.R. 761: National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013

H.R. 761

National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013

Date
September 18, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Emily Leviner

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, September 18, 2013, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, under a rule.  H.R. 761 was introduced on February 15, 2013 by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), and has 57 cosponsors.  H.R. 761 was ordered to be reported by the Committee on Natural Resources, as amended, on May 15, 2013 by a vote of 24-17 [1].

Bill Summary

H.R. 761 provides for more efficient development of “strategic and critical minerals,”[1] including rare earth elements, by requiring a number of actions to streamline the permitting process for mineral exploration and mining projects.  The bill requires coordination among agencies; eliminates duplicative analysis; requires timely filing of lawsuits; and sets the total permitting review process at 30 months.

Specifically, H.R. 761 tasks the lead agency responsible for issuing a permit with appointing a project lead to coordinate with other agencies.  The project lead must engage with other agencies early in the permitting process to minimize delays and duplicative reviews, and ensure that timelines are being set and adhered to.  The bill requires that the lead agency, in coordinating the permitting process for a project, defer to data and analyses provided by state agencies that have jurisdiction over the project.  At the request of the permit applicant, the lead agency and other coordinating agencies must reach an agreement setting time limits for each part of the permitting process.  The time limit for the total review process may not exceed 30 months unless all the parties agree.

H.R. 761 requires that civil lawsuits challenging agency actions affecting permits be filed within 60-days of the action being challenged.  The bill prohibits the payment of attorney’s fees, expenses and other costs by the government, ensuring these expenses are not born by U.S. taxpayers.  H.R. 761 also provides for expedited review and publishing of notices in the Federal Register pertaining to mineral exploration and mining.


[1] H.R. 761 defines “strategic and critical minerals” as minerals necessary for national defense and national security requirements; for the Nation’s energy infrastructure, including pipelines, refining capacity, electrical power generation and transmission, and renewable energy production; to support domestic manufacturing, agriculture, housing, telecommunications, healthcare, and transportation infrastructure; or for the Nation’s economic security and balance of trade.

Background

Strategic and critical minerals are necessary to broad sectors of the U.S. economy, including technology, agriculture, national security, health care, and transportation.  These minerals are vital components in many items that the nation relies on each day, from computers and x-ray machines to light bulbs and jet engines.[1]

Although the United States is among the world’s leading producers of important metals and minerals, “U.S. mineral exploration stagnated or declined during most of the 1990s and 2000s.”[2]  The decline can be attributed, at least in part, to the burdensome permitting process.  “Currently, it can take over a decade to acquire all the government permits for a mineral production project.  According to one report, currently, the United States ranks last with Papua New Guinea out of twenty-five major mining countries in permitting delays, and towards the bottom regarding government take and social issues affecting mining.”[3]   

As U.S. mineral exploration has declined, dependence on foreign sources has increased significantly.  “Through 2011 the U.S. was almost 100 percent dependent on China for rare earth elements, even though the U.S. has economic deposits of these mineral resources and at one time had the largest market share in the world.” [4]  Increased industrialization in China has caused a surge in its domestic demand for strategic and critical minerals, causing a reduction in exports of these vital resources to the U.S.[5]  Without these resources, the U.S. economy and national security are made vulnerable.

Streamlining the permitting process for mineral exploration and mining projects will allow the U.S. to develop these critical resources, thereby creating jobs, strengthening the economy, and enhancing national security.


[2] Committee Report 113-138 Part 1 at 5.

[4] Committee Report 113-138 Part 1 at 5.

[5] H.R. 761, Sec. 2(1).

Cost

According to CBO estimates, “implementing H.R. 761 would have no significant impact on the federal budget.  Enacting the bill could reduce mandatory payments for attorneys’ fees over the 2014-2023 period; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply.  However, CBO estimates that any such effects would be minimal.  Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.”[1]


[1] See CBO Cost Estimate for H.R. 761, June 17, 2013.

Amendments

1)         Rep. Lowenthal (D-CA) Amendment #1 – Amendment clarifies that the definition of "Strategic and Critical Minerals" only includes the minerals identified by the National Research Council (NRC) as strategic and critical minerals (and any additional minerals added by the Secretary that meet the NRC's criteria). The amendment also clarifies that the definition of "Mineral Exploration or Mine Permit" in this underlying legislation only refers to mineral exploration or mine permit for strategic and critical minerals.

2)         Rep. Veasey (D-TX) Amendment #8 – Amendment requires the Secretary of Interior to publish no later than 60 days after enactment of the bill a list of "Strategic and Critical Minerals" for the purpose of the bill. The Secretary must update the list every 5 years.

3)         Rep. Connolly (D-VA) Amendment #2 – Amendment requires mineral exploration and mining projects to be subjected to an Environmental Impact Statement review prior to approval. The amendment also removes the limit on the time frame for such reviews.

4)         Rep. Hastings (D-FL) Amendment #4 – Amendment requires that the cost of cleanup be included in financial assurance and that financial insurance instruments shall be in the form of a surety bond, letter of credit or other instrument that would routinely be accepted in commerce.

5)         Rep. Pearce (R-NM) Amendment #7 – Amendment clarifies the intention of the bill that it will not impact Secretarial Order 3324, as it relates to oil/gas and potash.  In December 2012, the Secretary of the Interior issued Secretarial Order 3324, which sets in place some parameters to help the potash and oil/gas industries within the Permian Basin coexist, including buffer zones and mapping requirements.  The amendment ensures that the Bureau of Land Management cannot show favoritism for either potash or oil/gas leases.

Additional Information

Key Messaging

  • America has strategic and critical mineral resources that are not being developed, due to government red-tape, frivolous lawsuits, and a burdensome permitting process.
  • It currently takes up to a decade to obtain the permits necessary for a mineral production project.
  • As a result, the U.S. is 100% reliant on foreign countries for 17 strategic and critical minerals.
  • Strategic and critical minerals are essential to entire sectors of the U.S. economy, including technology, agriculture, national security, health care, and transportation.
  • Streamlining the permitting process will enable Americans to harness the nation’s vast resources to create jobs, strengthen the economy, and enhance national security.

For more information, see the resource page on H.R. 761 provided by the Committee on Natural Resources.

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.