EARTHblog » Aaron Mintzes
October 11, 2012
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee is in recess this month. About a third of its members are either running for re-election or looking forward to retirement. One piece of their remaining business is to create an effective strategic and critical minerals policy. Prized for their electrical and chemical properties, these minerals are essential for many high-tech, military, and clean energy applications. And China, which produces some 90% of our domestic needs, has squeezed their production output creating an antsy marketplace for investors and a squabble in international trade circles. What are they looking for? The bill under consideration is the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2012 (S. 1113/HR 4402). Earthworks opposes this bill because it burdens community groups seeking to add their voice to the permit review process. Section 115 spells this out with great specificity. This provision directs the Interior Department to meticulously examine every step in the mining permitting process. What are they looking for? Time intervals.
September 14, 2012
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set to consider rare earth mineral legislation possibly as soon as this month. The bill, S. 1113, the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2012, resulted from careful negotiations between the committee’s chairman and ranking member incorporating many ideas offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO). Bipartisanship is at a premium in this town and the value of producing sensible and balanced policy is worth more than the minerals this bill intends to promote.
S. 1113 directs the Secretary of Interior to designate 10 critical minerals and develop and implement a series of studies and comprehensive regulatory reviews related to every aspect of the public input and environmental permitting process. This includes requiring the Secretary to create specific performance metrics designed to measure reductions in permit times for each stage of critical mineral mining operations. Studies are good. And government efficiency is too. The problem is that heavy-handed mandated reductions in permit approval times will reduce the ability of communities impacted by mining to voice their concerns.