Report text available as:

(PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip?


114th Congress    }                               {    Rept. 114-253
                      HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session      }                               {           Part 1

======================================================================



 
    NATIONAL STRATEGIC AND CRITICAL MINERALS PRODUCTION ACT OF 2015

                                _______
                                

 September 8, 2015.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

Mr. Bishop of Utah, from the Committee on Natural Resources, submitted 
                             the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1937]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (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, having 
considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment 
and recommend that the bill do pass.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 1937 is 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.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Mineral production is a key economic activity, supplying 
strategic and critical metals and minerals essential for 
agriculture, communication, technology, construction, health 
care, manufacturing, transportation, and the arts. More 
specifically, strategic metals and metal alloys are an integral 
component of aerospace, defense, and other critical 
infrastructure. Minerals are also necessary to satisfy the 
basic requirements of an individual's well-being: food, 
clothing, shelter, and a clean, healthy environment.
    Mining of mineral resources creates tangible value, 
introducing new money into the Nation's economic system. 
Additional tangible value is added to the raw mined product 
through manufacturing, construction, and other uses. Harvesting 
domestic mineral resources contributes to local economies, 
creates jobs, and benefits our Nation's overall economic 
security.
    According to the National Research Council, one of the 
primary advantages the United States possesses over its 
strongest industrial competitors is its domestic resource base. 
The United States is among the world's largest producer of many 
important metals and minerals, particularly copper, gold, lead, 
molybdenum, silver, and zinc, and it still has substantial 
domestic reserves of these metals. Yet U.S. mineral exploration 
stagnated or declined during most of the 1990s and 2000s while 
global mineral exploration trends were strongly positive.
    In the early 1990s, the U.S. received 20 percent of the 
worldwide exploration budget; today it hovers around 7 
percent.\1\ Without increased domestic exploration, significant 
declines in U.S. mineral production are unavoidable as present 
reserves are exhausted.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\SNL Metals & Mining, World Exploration Trends 2015 Special 
Report for the PDAC International Convention.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The lack of exploration expenditures and other factors 
described below has led to an increased import dependency for 
non-fuel mineral materials. For example, in 1986 the United 
States was dependent on foreign sources for 30 non-fuel mineral 
materials, six of which were entirely imported to meet the 
Nation's requirements and another 16 of which were imported to 
meet more than 60 percent of the Nation's needs.
    By 2014, the U.S. import dependence for non-fuel mineral 
materials more than doubled from 30 to 64 commodities; 19 
commodities were imported entirely to meet the Nation's 
requirements; and another 24 commodities required imports of 
more than 50 percent.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\Ibid (pg. 6).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Factors contributing to the decline in domestic mineral 
exploration activities and other downward trends in the 
domestic mining industry during the late 1990s are directly 
related to the regulatory and administrative changes made 
during that time period, including revisions to Bureau of Land 
Management's 3809 Regulations\3\ and the Department of Interior 
Solicitor's Millsite Opinion.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/planning/nepa/webguide/cfr/
43_cfr_3809.html
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Working through the permitting process also became more 
cumbersome, as federal and state agencies with land management 
and regulatory responsibilities over mineral exploration and 
development projects worked at cross purposes to one another. 
Legal challenges to Records of Decision prepared under NEPA by 
anti-mining groups also contributed to the delays and 
uncertainties in obtaining the necessary permits for 
exploration and development. In fact, the United States 
averages 7 to 10 years for final permit approval.
    Currently the United States lacks a coherent national 
policy to assure domestic availability of minerals essential 
for national economic well-being, national security, and global 
economic competitiveness. The Nation's dependence on China for 
rare-earth elements and rare metals, elements necessary for 
telecommunications, military technologies, health-care 
technologies, and conventional and renewable energy 
technologies, is the most prominent example.
    Finally, the President has recognized the problems 
associated with long permitting time frames for infrastructure 
and renewable energy projects and has issued guidance documents 
requiring coordination and timely processing of permits to be 
issued by federal agencies with regulatory responsibilities to 
be able to begin construction in a timely manner.\4\ This 
legislation builds on this precedent set by the Administration 
by applying the principles outlined in the guidance documents 
to mineral exploration and development projects.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-28/pdf/2012-7636.pdf
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A version of the ``National Strategic and Critical Minerals 
Production Act'' passed the House in both the 112th (H.R. 4402, 
July 12, 2012, 256-160)\5\ and 113th Congress (H.R. 761, 
September 18, 2013, 246-178, and as part of H.R. 4, the ``Jobs 
for America Act'' on September 18, 2014, 253-163).\6\ Changes 
to H.R. 1937 from the previous versions of the legislation 
include updated findings and definitions, and revisions to the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) equivalence provision 
to ensure a robust environmental review if this process is 
determined to be appropriate by the lead agency.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/4402/
actions?q=%7B%22search%22% 3A%5B%22%5C%22hr4402%5C%22%22%5D%7D 
    \6\https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/761/
related-bills?q=%7B%22search %22%3A%5B%22%5C%22hr761%5C%22%22%5D%7D 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The legislation addresses one major problem facing domestic 
mining projects--lengthy permitting timelines and delays--an 
issue raised by witnesses at numerous hearings held in several 
Congresses. It's also an issue that has been identified in the 
``Ranking of Countries for Mining Investment,'' published 
annually by the Behre Dolbear Group\7\ (mining industry 
advisors), as the most serious risk to mining projects in the 
United States.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \7\http://www.dolbear.com/
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In the 2012 and 2013 reports, the United States ranked last 
with Papua New Guinea (out of 25 major mining countries) in 
permitting delays. In 2014, the U.S. improved in its overall 
ranking; however, the 7 to 10 year permitting timelines still 
presented the greatest risk to mining projects in the United 
States.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\http://www.dolbear.com/news-resources/documents 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    There are no changes to the definition of Strategic and 
Critical Minerals which is written so it applies to the 
diversity of the Nation's mineral endowment. This is a 
deliberate policy decision to not pick winners and losers in 
the domestic mining industry. Critics of the legislation often 
raise the prospect that the bill, if passed, could apply to 
`sand and gravel' operations or other types of mined 
construction materials as if these mundane everyday mined 
materials are not critical.
    Yet every house, building, or infrastructure project such 
as a road, highway or bridge is dependent on these materials; 
society is dependent on these materials. In 2014 the value of 
these industrial minerals, including sand and gravel was $46.1 
billion whereas the value of metal mines production was $31 
billion.\9\ Furthermore the United States Geological Survey 
(USGS) assessment after the first Great California Shakeout (a 
drill to practice behavior during a major earthquake and its 
aftermath) determined that there were not enough sand and 
gravel deposits in Southern California to meet the 
reconstruction needs of the region.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/2015/mcs2015.pdf (pg. 
7).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 1937 was introduced on April 22, 2015, by Congressman 
Mark E. Amodei (R-NV). The bill was referred to the Committee 
on Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the 
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. It was also 
referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. On June 25, 2015, 
the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on 
the bill. On July 8, 2015, the Natural Resources Committee met 
to consider the bill. The Subcommittee was discharged by 
unanimous consent. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) offered 
an amendment designated 009; it was not adopted by a bipartisan 
roll call vote of 11 yeas and 21 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    Congressman Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA) offered an amendment 
designated 002; it was not adopted by a bipartisan roll call 
vote of 13 yeas and 24 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) offered an amendment 
designated 008; it was not adopted by a bipartisan roll call 
vote of 13 yeas and 23 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA) offered an amendment 
designated 010; it was not adopted by a roll call vote of 14 
yeas and 22 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (D-CA) offered an amendment 
designated 005; it was not adopted by a roll call vote of 16 
yeas and 22 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) offered an amendment 
designated 007; it was not adopted by voice vote. On July 9, 
2015, the bill was adopted and ordered favorably reported to 
the House of Representatives by a bipartisan roll call vote of 
23 to 14, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

      COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(2)(B) 
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Under clause 3(c)(3) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has 
received the following cost estimate for this bill from the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

H.R. 1937--National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 
        2015

    CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1937 would have no 
significant effect on the federal budget. Because enacting the 
bill could reduce mandatory payments for attorneys' fees over 
the 2016-2025 period, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, 
CBO estimates that any such effects would be minimal. Enacting 
the bill would not affect revenues.
    H.R. 1937 would require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
and the Forest Service to take actions aimed at simplifying the 
process for obtaining permits to extract minerals from federal 
lands. Based on information from the affected agencies, CBO 
estimates that those provisions would have no significant 
budgetary effect because those agencies are already performing 
most of the activities under current law.
    The bill also would direct the agencies to expedite the 
publishing of notices in the Federal Register related to 
mineral exploration and mining projects. Based on information 
provided by BLM, CBO estimates that implementing that provision 
would cost less than $300,000 a year, assuming availability of 
appropriated funds. Those finds would be used to hire 
additional employees to allow the affected agencies to meet the 
timelines established in the bill.
    Finally, H.R. 1937 would exempt lawsuits that affect 
mineral exploration or mining permits on federal lands from the 
Equal Access to Justice Act. That act requires the U.S. 
Treasury to pay attorneys' fees and other legal costs for 
certain plaintiffs who prevail in court proceedings against the 
federal government. Over the 2005-2015 period, total payments 
made on behalf of BLM, the Forest Service, and the Office of 
Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from the Judgment 
Fund of the U.S. Treasury to cover attorneys' fees under that 
act averaged about $600,000 a year. Based on information from 
the Government Accountability Office, the Treasury Department, 
and the affected land management agencies, CBO estimates that 
only a small portion of that amount was paid to plaintiffs who 
prevailed in cases related to mineral exploration or mining 
permits. Thus, we estimate that enacting H.R. 1937 would reduce 
direct spending by less than $50,000 a year over the 2016-2025 
period.
    H.R. 1937 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Jeff LaFave 
and Ben Christopher. The estimate was approved by Theresa 
Gullo, Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
    2. Section 308(a) of Congressional Budget Act. As required 
by clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget 
Act of 1974, this bill does not contain any new budget 
authority, spending authority, credit authority, or an increase 
or decrease in revenues or tax expenditures. According to the 
Congressional Budget Office, implementing the bill ``would have 
no significant effect on the federal budget.''
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or 
objective of this bill is 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.

                           EARMARK STATEMENT

    This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined 
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                       COMPLIANCE WITH H. RES. 5

    Directed Rule Making. The Chairman does not believe that 
this bill directs any executive branch official to conduct any 
specific rule-making proceedings.
    Duplication of Existing Programs. This bill does not 
establish or reauthorize a program of the federal government 
known to be duplicative of another program. Such program was 
not included in any report from the Government Accountability 
Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139 
or identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance published pursuant to the Federal Program 
Information Act (Public Law 95-220, as amended by Public Law 
98-169) as relating to other programs.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    We oppose H.R. 1937 because, despite its title, this 
legislation has nothing to do with the development of actual 
critical or strategic minerals. This Republican bill is nothing 
more than another giveaway to the mining industry that speeds 
royalty-free access to taxpayer resources at the expense of key 
protections for local communities and the environment.
    The bill ignores well-established scientific definitions 
for critical minerals, and instead uses a definition so broad 
that it encompasses virtually all hardrock resources. The bill 
would grant giveaways to mining companies for common minerals 
such as gold, silver, copper and uranium; even mines for 
minerals that are not remotely critical such as sand or gravel 
could enjoy the open access to public lands granted by this 
bill.
    Under this sweeping definition, H.R. 1937 would eliminate 
proper review under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) for nearly all hardrock minerals, dramatically shifting 
how these mines are permitted on public lands. Further, the 
bill would elevate mining above all other uses of our public 
lands, threatening hunting, fishing, grazing and conservation.
    In opposition to an identical bill last Congress, the 
Department of the Interior stated, ``This legislation would 
remove many of the environmental safeguards for almost all 
types of hardrock mines on public lands, bypass evaluation of 
potential impacts under NEPA, and limit public involvement in 
agency decision-making.'' The administration also strongly 
opposed this bill when it was introduced in the 112th Congress.
    In addition, the Majority's claims of mining permit delays 
that prompted this bill are unfounded. This bill would prevent 
proper environmental review for the small number of mines that 
could pose a significant danger to public health, water, or the 
environment, and where additional review is therefore 
warranted. Last year, the average time it took to approve a 
plan of operations for a hardrock mine was 17 months, and since 
2008, the approval time has actually decreased. As of last 
year, the Obama Administration had approved 69 percent of 
hardrock mines within three years.
    Not only does the bill's attempt to limit NEPA review 
threaten proper environmental considerations, it also endangers 
public input. The NEPA process is designed to enhance 
transparency of government decisions and includes established 
periods for public comment; without NEPA robust and meaningful 
public participation cannot be ensured. The bill further 
attacks public review by exempting legal cases brought against 
hardrock mines from the Equal Access to Justice Act, which 
enables all members of the public, regardless of their 
financial situation, to use the courts to hold the government 
accountable.
    The Majority rejected several amendments offered by 
Democrats to fix the worst provisions in the bill, including an 
amendment offered by Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee 
Ranking Member Lowenthal that would have limited the provisions 
in the bill to only minerals that are actually deemed critical 
and strategic by the scientific community. Other amendments 
rejected by the Majority would have reinstated the NEPA 
process, removed the exemption for hardrock mines under the 
Equal Access to Justice Act, or exempted sacred Native American 
sites from the NEPA waiver in the bill.
    Instead of updating the Mining Law of 1872 by considering 
comprehensive bills such as the Hardrock Mining Reform and 
Reclamation Act cosponsored by several members of the 
committee, the Majority continues to push nonsensical, 
environmentally destructive bills that do little to improve the 
woefully outdated hardrock mining system in the United States. 
Democrats believe that we should be ensuring that mining 
companies are not able to extract valuable public minerals 
without paying any royalties to the American people, and that 
we should be assisting local communities throughout the country 
to reclaim hundreds of thousands of unsafe or toxic abandoned 
mine sites. Unfortunately, this Republican legislation does 
nothing to close these egregious loopholes that large, 
multinational mining companies enjoy when mining on our public 
lands, and instead provides even more giveaways and handouts to 
this industry.
                                   Raul M. Grijalva.
                                   Alan Lowenthal.
                                   Grace F. Napolitano.
                                   Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.
                                   Ruben Gallego.
                                   Jared Polis.
                                   Don Beyer.

                                  [all]