Mining Legislation News
and related articles
Senate ENR hearing on minerals
March 28, 2017 - The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the United States’ increasing dependence on foreign sources of minerals and opportunities to rebuild and improve the supply chain in the United States. The hearing video and PDFs of testimony are available at:
Recently, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) introduced the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017” in the Senate and House, respectively. In doing so, they highlighted the important role that minerals play in our national security. Read more at National Mining Association
Alaska Miners Association Applauds Disapproval of Anti-Coal Rule
(Anchorage, Alaska) - For the first time in many years, the coal mining industry scored a major victory this week. Thursday, U.S. Senate passed H.J. Res. 38, the Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval annulling the Obama administration's anti-coal mining regulation which they had labeled the "stream protection rule." The rule, however, had nothing to do with protecting streams, but was yet another attempt by the former administration to end coal mining in America. The U.S House passed the measure Wednesday. More
WMC Members Respond
New EPA Mining Rules Duplicative, Unnecessary
The article includes a link to the letter One View: Mining companies shouldn't be allowed to walk away from pollution. The letter prompted Ann Carpenter and Elizabeth Zbinden (WMC members) to write the article.
USGS Releases Mineral Resource Assessment Report
The U.S. Geological Survey has released Chapter A of its mineral resource assessment report on the sage brush focal areas in NV, ID, OR, WY, UT and MT. The assessment was done at the request of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to evaluate the mineral-resource potential of some 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The need for this assessment arose from the decision by the Secretary of the Interior to pursue the protection of large tracts of contiguous habitat for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the Western United States. Sage-grouse has been one of the issues that WMC has been addressing during our Fly-Ins to Washington DC for the last several years. The report.
WMC Sends Scoping Comments on the Notice of Proposed Withdrawal; Sagebrush Focal Areas; Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming and Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to the BLM. Read the comments.
House Transportation Committee Passes Bills to Ensure Balance, Certainty, & Federal-State Partnership in Regulation of Nation’s Waters
Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) proposed a comprehensive energy bill that included amnbedments that will promote U.S. global competitiveness by removing inefficiencies and duplication from the mine permitting process. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the bi-partisan energy bill, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 out of Committee by a bipartisan vote of 18 to 4. Some of the amendments are favorable to mining.
New Mineral Investment Survey Warns of Dangers of U.S. Permit Delays
A new survey documenting mineral investment trends in 25 countries ranks the United States as one of the more attractive destinations for investors, but warns of risks associated with permitting delays and political stability. Read More
Stream Protection Rule
The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) will be holding six public hearings on its recently proposed Stream Protection Rule (SPR) "to allow stakeholders an opportunity to give feedback on the rule.” See http://www.osmre.gov/programs/rcm/streamprotectionrule.shtm for more information on the rule and the hearing sessions.
Good Samaritan Legislation Answer to Animas River Spill Says NMA
The EPA-caused spill of pressurized mine water from the Gold King mine in Colorado into the Animas River has prompted an extended debate about legislative initiatives and broader hardrock mining policies to address legacy mines and mine reclamation. NMA has been actively engaged to turn the discussion to Good Samaritan legislation and sharpen the distinctions between legacy mines and modern mining. Read More
U.S. Mining Policy & Global Competitiveness.
Mark Fellows, director of consulting at SNL Metals & Mining, explains how protracted mine permitting delays deter investment in new mines, cost communities jobs and make it difficult for U.S. manufacturers to access the materials they need. Fellows offers his support to a legislative solution that addresses regulatory delays and inefficiencies in the mine permitting process.
SUPREME COURT Rules on Michigan VS EPA - June 29, 2015
The Supreme Court ruled against the EPA rules for power plants. The EPA made rules to regulate mercury emissions from power plants without an economic analysis, including cost of compliance and cost to consumers. The decision said that EPA must consider cost —including cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. Read the Decision.
REPORT: Permitting, Economic Value and Mining in the United States
Prepared for The National Mining Association
Mining companies accept that there will always be some element of delay during the development period and will build appropriate contingency and mitigation measures into their business plan. However, delays for unforeseen reasons, or the delays to the expected process, are a real problem for the industry, and by extension, the U.S. economy as a whole.
-- Unexpected delays in the permitting process alone reduce a typical mining project’s value by more than one-third.
-- The higher costs and increased risk that often arise from a prolonged permitting process can cut the expected value of a mine in half before production even begins.
-- The combined impact of unexpected, and open-ended, delays and higher costs and risks can lead to mining projects becoming financially unviable.
Amodei: H.R.1937 - To require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of the minerals and mineral materials of strategic and critical importance to United States economic and national security and manufacturing competitiveness.
Murkowski: S.883 - American Mineral Security Act of 2015. Introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2015.
A Sage Grouse Viewpoint
By Elizabeth Zbinden, Pres Geological Society of Nevada, October 2015
Acronym alert! The following column contains way too many acronyms. My apologies. It is hard to do otherwise when writing about government things.
By now you know that the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the finding by its agency the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the Greater Sage Grouse does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This good news followed a similar announcement in April that its sibling, the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment, also did not require protection. Their reasoning is summarized as follows:
“The FWS reached this determination after evaluating the bird’s population status, along with the collective efforts by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, private landowners and other partners to conserve its habitat. Despite long-term population declines, sage-grouse remain relatively abundant and well-distributed across the species’ 173-million acre range. After a thorough analysis of the best available scientific information and taking into account ongoing key conservation efforts and their projected benefits, the FWS has determined the bird does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and therefore does not need protection under the ESA.” (From the DOI press release announcing the decision)
You may also know that “collective efforts by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service….” include an Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment (ARMPA) and Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) in which they proposed to withdraw from mineral location about 10 million acres of land across six states. About 2.8 million acres of that is in northern Nevada: Elko, Humboldt, and Washoe counties. That land has already been “segregated”, meaning temporarily withdrawn while they decide on a longer-term withdrawal.
Are you a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty sort of person?
Many people from many stakeholder categories put in many person-years of effort to design programs to conserve sage-grouse habitat and make the ESA listing unnecessary. It worked! But the restrictions on land use will make mineral exploration harder. A number of our colleagues will lose their investments of time, effort, and money if the withdrawal goes through, notwithstanding assertions that valid existing rights will be respected. The next day after the ESA announcement we started to get other announcements -- about lawsuits against the decisions.
The shouting is intense. Some say the restrictions are too great, some say the restrictions are not enough, and some say a middle ground has been achieved. I like the way journalist Carrie Kaufman put it:
“…[T]he sage grouse is not simply a bird, it’s a proxy.
It’s a proxy for environmental groups who say that keeping the sage grouse thriving will protect the sage brush that it lives in which in turn will protect hundreds of other species that live in the desert that will in turn preserve the entire southwest.
On the other hand, it’s a proxy for mining and energy and ranching groups who say federal land-use plans are just an excuse for keeping industry off federal lands.
Nevada Senator Dean Heller put out a statement … in which he called the threat of an endangered species listing a ruse designed to allow the federal government “to tighten its grip [on federal lands] at the expense of rural America’s future.”
So, the decision … not to put the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List does not end the proxy war. It just shifts it in a different direction.” (From: knpr.org/knpr/2015-09/sage-grouse-its-not-about-bird-its-about-land, accessed Sept 24, 2015)
One thing I believe is that we can coexist. We can protect the sage grouse and its habitat, at the same time we explore for and mine minerals on the land. The withdrawal from mineral location is not yet final and we can make our opinions known. BLM is accepting comments about the proposed withdrawal until December 23, 2015. Find out more at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/sagegrouse.html. You’ll be hearing more about this over the next couple months.
Gardner: S.1036 - A bill to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to provide certain Western States assistance in the development of statewide conservation and management plans for the protection and recovery of sage-grouse species, and for other purposes. Senator Gardner’s Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act is critically important legislation designed to ensure the states’ conservation plans have time to work to avoid the need to list the bird as a Threatened or Endangered species and to prevent sweeping mineral withdrawals and land use restrictions.
WMC Sage Grouse Briefing
July 17, 2014 -- Nevada’s bid to house Tesla’s lithium-ion battery factory could provide tremendous growth opportunities for countless state industries and for Nevadans looking for well-paying jobs. As the only state currently mining lithium, Nevada’s reserves could shorten and simplify the gigafactory’s supply chain — giving the state a unique competitive advantage. This is no small leg up as worldwide demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket by 20 percent. Read More
It takes the average American mine seven to 10 years to move from permitting to production. Wall Street Journal Article by Daniel McGroarty, July 24, 2014
The Environmental Protection Agency last week put forth new restrictions that would essentially block the Pebble Mine, a proposed multi-metal project in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska. For months the EPA has argued that under the Clean Water Act it can prevent the mine before the company has even filed for a permit. Read the article (if you subscribe to the WSJ online)
The article is also referenced at: http://americanresources.org/blog/
Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse
Letter from 38 Organizations
about the BLM and US Forest Service Draft Land Use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement. (PDF)
EPA Climate Rules: Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right?
Jan 20, 2013 - (National Journal) Are the climate-change regulations President Obama has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to draw up striking the right balance between reductions of carbon emissions and economic realities?
At a Senate hearing last week, a middle ground was elusive as Republicans assailed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for not adhering to sound science and not paying enough attention to economic concerns. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats stressed the urgency of the climate issue, and a group of environmental groups sent a letter to Obama saying he hasn't done enough to show his commitment to climate change over an "all of the above" energy policy. Read More
Deadlines for Sage Grouse Comments
There has been some confusion about when comments are due for the various efforts being undertaken by the US Forest Service, BLM and US Fish and Wildlife Service with regards to the Greater Sage-grouse and Bi-state Sage-Grouse distinct population segment. The following list includes comment period deadlines coming up soon!
Comment Period Ends Jan. 29, 2014
Lead Agency: BLM. Project Title: Nevada-Northeastern California Greater Sage-grouse Draft Land Use Plan Amendments and Environmental Impact Statement
Link to How to Get Involved webpage for Jan. 29th comment deadline:
Comment Period Ends Feb. 10, 2014
Lead Agency: US Fish and Wildlife Service. Project Title: Proposal to protect the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment of greater sage-grouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act
Scientific information regarding these proposals will now be accepted until February 10, 2014, and may be submitted by one of the following methods:
Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/. In the Search box, enter FWS–R8–ES–2013–0042 and FWS ‐ R8 ‐ ES ‐ 2013 ‐ 0072, which are the docket numbers for these rulemakings. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by
Clicking on “Comment Now!”
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand ‐ delivery to:
Public Comment Processing,
Attn: FWS–R8–ES– 2013–0042 and FWS ‐ R8 ‐ ES ‐ 2013 ‐ 0072;
Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
The House last week passed H.R. 761, the " National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013," by a vote of 246-178. The bi-partisan legislation, introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), establishes a streamlined permitting system for U.S. minerals mining. It came after months of lobbying by NMA and member company representatives, whose work was instrumental in the passage of H.R. 761. It was particularly effective in concert with NMA's Minerals Make Life initiative and supporting advocacy work, which has helped change the dialogue on U.S. mining from focusing solely on Mining Law reform to understanding the importance of domestic minerals to the product supply chain and how that can be strengthened through a streamlined permitting process.