Report text available as:

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

116th Congress    }                                     {      Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session      }                                     {      116-225

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



 
                   URANIUM CLASSIFICATION ACT OF 2019

                                _______
                                

October 4, 2019.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

 Mr. Grijalva, from the Committee on Natural Resources, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 3405]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 3405) to direct the Secretary of the Interior to 
revise the Final List of Critical Minerals, and for other 
purposes, having considered the same, report favorably thereon 
with an amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do 
pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Uranium Classification Act of 2019''.

SEC. 2. REVISION OF FINAL RULE REGARDING CRITICAL MINERALS.

  (a) In General.--Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment 
of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall revise the Final List 
of Critical Minerals, and any related regulations, to remove uranium 
from such list.
  (b) Restriction.--The Secretary of the Interior may not add uranium 
to the Final List of Critical Minerals.
  (c) Final List of Critical Minerals.--The term ``Final List of 
Critical Minerals'' means the Final List of Critical Minerals issued 
pursuant to Executive Order 13817 (82 Fed. Reg. 60835, relating to a 
Federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical 
minerals).

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 3405 is to direct the Secretary of the 
Interior to revise the Final List of Critical Minerals, and for 
other purposes.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Executive Order (EO) 13,817,\1\ issued on December 20, 
2017, directed the U.S. government to adopt a national strategy 
for critical minerals. Pursuant to EO 13,817, the Department of 
Interior published a Final List of Critical Minerals on May 
18th, 2018.\2\ The list contains several minerals, including 
uranium, that do not meet the definition of a critical mineral 
under EO 13,817, or scientifically accepted definitions of 
criticality published by the National Research Council, the 
U.S. Department of Energy, the American Physical Society, the 
Materials Research Society, and the National Science and 
Technology Council of the Obama and Trump Administrations, 
among other organizations. The first requirement under EO 
13,817 for a mineral to be critical is that it be: (a) a non-
fuel mineral, or (b) a mineral material. The terms ``non-fuel 
mineral'' and ``mineral material'' are defined or used 
elsewhere in federal law in ways that clearly exclude uranium. 
The Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970\3\ defines uranium 
as a ``mineral fuel''--a definition consistently applied by the 
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Land Management, 
National Science and Technology Council, and others. Uranium is 
also not a ``mineral material''--as defined by the Materials 
Act of 1947,\4\ a ``mineral material'' includes common 
varieties of sand, stone, gravel, pumice, pumicite, cinders, 
and clay, and other minerals that are considered ``saleable.'' 
Uranium is a mineral considered ``locatable'' under the General 
Mining Act of 1872,\5\ not saleable under the Materials Act.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\Exec. Order No. 13,817, 82 Fed. Reg. 60,835 (Dec. 20, 2017).
    \2\83 Fed. Reg. 23,295.
    \3\30 U.S.C. Sec. 21a.
    \4\Id. Sec. Sec. 601 et seq.
    \5\Id. Sec. Sec. 21 et seq.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Beyond the definition, uranium does not meet the other 
requirements of critical minerals under EO 13,817. The United 
States' uranium supply chain is not vulnerable to disruption, 
nor is it highly concentrated in individual markets--two 
requirements identified in the Department of the Interior's 
methodology for being considered a critical mineral. Although 
uranium is an important fuel mineral that the United States is 
93 percent import-dependent on, world supplies are robust and 
uranium resources are heavily concentrated in friendly 
countries: Australia has the largest amount, with 30 percent of 
identified resources, while Canada has the third largest, with 
11 percent. Those two countries provided 52 percent of U.S. 
uranium imports in 2017.
    Additionally, the process the Department of Interior used 
to generate the critical minerals list was not transparent. The 
Department made it clear that a quantitative screening tool 
developed by the USGS\6\ was the starting point for generating 
the list, but the methodology document provided with the 
critical minerals list mentions the use of six additional 
factors.\7\ Those--such as ``various inputs from the DOD'' and 
``the judgment of subject-matter experts''\8\--are vague and 
subjective. Another factor listed was the Energy Information 
Administration's Uranium Marketing Annual Report, which was 
used to justify retaining uranium on the list rather than as 
part of an actual methodology for including it. No information 
was provided for any of the six factors that shows why uranium 
was deemed a critical mineral. It is further perplexing that in 
December 2017, less than two months before the draft critical 
minerals list was published by the USGS, that agency released 
an updated report on critical minerals that included no mention 
of uranium as a critical mineral.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\Erin McCullough & Nedal T. Nassar, Assessment of Critical 
Minerals: Updated Application of an Early-Warning Screening 
Methodology, 30(3) Min. Econ. 257 (2017).
    \7\U.S. Geological Surv., Open-File Report 2018-1021, Draft 
Critical Mineral List--Summary of Methodology and Background 
Information--U.S. Geological Survey Technical Input Document in 
Response to Secretarial Order No. 3359, at 2 (2018).
    \8\Id.
    \9\U.S. Geological Surv., Professional Paper 1802, Critical Mineral 
Resources of the United States--Economic and Environmental Geology and 
Prospects for Future Supply (Klaus J. Schulz, John H. DeYoung, Jr., 
Robert R. Seal & Dwight C. Bradley, eds., 2017).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    One of the purposes of creating a critical minerals list, 
as stated by EO 13,817, is ``streamlining leasing and 
permitting processes to expedite exploration, production, 
processing, reprocessing, recycling, and domestic refining of 
critical minerals.''\10\ In June 2019, the Department of 
Commerce published its report required under the EO for 
developing a national critical minerals strategy. This report 
contains many recommendations for action, including, among 
others, fast-tracking mining permits and the review of existing 
mineral withdrawals.\11\ Such a review could put every single 
mineral withdrawal at risk of reduction or elimination by the 
Trump Administration, particularly the one protecting the 
region around the Grand Canyon. Given the illogical 
classification of uranium as a critical mineral and the 
subsequent Department of Commerce report, the Committee is 
concerned that the Administration may use this new designation 
to speed uranium mine permits, assisting the uranium mining 
industry while putting a national treasure at risk and 
circumventing laws intended to protect the environment and 
public health.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\82 Fed. Reg. 60,835, 60,836 (Dec. 20, 2017).
    \11\U.S. Dep't of Com., A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and 
Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals (2019).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Toxic Legacy of Uranium Mining

    Concerns about a revival of uranium mining are well-
founded. Past uranium mining activities have taken a heavy toll 
across the Colorado Plateau, especially on Native American 
communities. Since the 1940s, the plateau has been home to at 
least 22 uranium mills and the majority of all uranium mining 
conducted in the United States. The Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) estimates there are a total of 15,000 abandoned 
uranium mines across 14 western states. Most of those mines are 
found in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming, and 
75 percent of abandoned uranium mines are on federal and tribal 
lands.
    There are over 1,000 mines and four uranium mills on the 
Navajo Nation alone. Today, more than 500 mines on the Navajo 
Nation have been abandoned by the mining companies that 
operated them and remain in need of cleanup.\12\ To date, the 
EPA has entered into more than $1.7 billion in enforcement 
agreements and settlements for the cleanup of fewer than half 
these sites. While the Navajo Nation and the EPA work to assess 
and clean up these sites, the abandoned mines continue to 
contaminate groundwater, crops, livestock, and homes. In 2008, 
several U.S. and tribal government agencies identified 29 water 
sources on the Navajo Nation with uranium and other 
radionuclide levels in excess of drinking water standards.\13\ 
In 2016, an ongoing study by the Centers for Disease Control 
and Prevention and several state and local groups surveyed 599 
participants on the Navajo Nation and found elevated uranium 
levels in the urine of 27 percent of the participants, whereas 
the general U.S. population has such levels at only 5 
percent.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up 
Abandoned Uranium Mines (last updated July 19, 2019).
    \13\See, e.g., Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team 
(START) Team 9, TDD No. T05-09-07-11-0001, Navajo Nation Drinking Water 
Source Sampling, Feb.-Mar. 2008 (2008).
    \14\See For The Navajo Nation, Uranium Mining's Deadly Legacy 
Lingers, NPR: Shots (Apr. 10, 2016, 5:07 AM ET), https://www.npr.org/
sections/health-shots/2016/04/10/473547227/for-the-navajo-nation-
uranium-minings-deadly-legacy-lingers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While some argue that modern uranium mines can be operated 
and cleaned up without contaminating land and water, there is 
little evidence to support these claims. Several recent 
accidents at uranium mines near the Grand Canyon demonstrate 
the considerable uncertainty surrounding pathways for uranium 
contamination. Radioactive dust from the Kanab North mine has 
been carried by the wind throughout the surrounding area. In 
2017, the operator of Canyon Mine pierced an aquifer while 
digging a mine shaft--a problem that has yet to be remedied. 
The operator's solution is to mist the contaminated water from 
the mine shaft into the surrounding ecosystem to keep the 
mine's onsite storage pond from overflowing.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 3405 was introduced on June 21, 2019, by Chair Raul M. 
Grijalva (D-AZ). The bill was referred solely to the Committee 
on Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the 
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The Subcommittee 
held a hearing to consider the bill on June 25, 2019. On July 
17, 2019, the Natural Resources Committee met to consider the 
bill. The Subcommittee was discharged by unanimous consent. 
Chair Grijalva offered an amendment in the nature of a 
substitute. Representative Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (R-AZ) offered 
an amendment designated Gosar #5 to the Grijalva amendment in 
the nature of a substitute. The amendment was not agreed to by 
a roll call vote of 14 yeas and 19 nays, as follows:


[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    Representative Gosar offered an amendment designated Gosar 
#1 to the Grijalva amendment in the nature of a substitute. The 
amendment was not agreed to by a roll call vote of 14 yeas and 
19 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    The Grijalva amendment in the nature of a substitute was 
agreed to by voice vote. The bill, as amended, was ordered 
favorably reported to the House of Representatives by a roll 
call vote of 19 yeas and 15 nays, as follows:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

                                HEARINGS

    For the purposes of section 103(i) of H. Res. 6 of the 
116th Congress--the following hearing was used to develop or 
consider H.R. 3405: a legislative hearing titled ``Uranium 
Mining: Contamination and Criticality'' held by the 
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on Tuesday, June 
25, 2019, at 10:00 a.m.

            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 AND CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET ACT

    1. Cost of Legislation and the Congressional Budget Act. 
With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) and (3) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
sections 308(a) and 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974, the Committee has received the following estimate for the 
bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                    Washington, DC, August 6, 2019.
Hon. Raul M. Grijalva,
Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 3405, the Uranium 
Classification Act of 2019.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Robert Reese.
            Sincerely,
                                             Mark P. Hadley
                                 (For Phillip L. Swagel, Director).
    Enclosure.

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
    

    H.R. 3405 would direct the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to 
remove uranium from the Final List of Critical Minerals 
published on May 18, 2018, pursuant to Executive Order 13817, 
which directed the federal government to identify and develop a 
national strategy for critical minerals.
    CBO estimates that updating the list and associated 
regulations to exclude uranium would not significantly increase 
USGS costs over the 2020-2024 period. Any spending would be 
subject to the availability of appropriated funds.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Robert Reese. 
The estimate was reviewed by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
    2. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goals and 
objectives of this bill is to direct the Secretary of the 
Interior to revise the Final List of Critical Minerals to 
exclude uranium.

                           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.

                 UNFUNDED MANDATES REFORM ACT STATEMENT

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                           EXISTING PROGRAMS

    This bill does not establish or reauthorize a program of 
the federal government known to be duplicative of another 
program.

                  APPLICABILITY TO LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act.

               PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL, OR TRIBAL LAW

    Any preemptive effect of this bill over state, local, or 
tribal law is intended to be consistent with the bill's 
purposes and text and the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the 
U.S. Constitution.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes to existing 
law.

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    We are opposed to H.R. 3405, which would direct the 
Secretary of the Interior to revise the Final List of Critical 
Minerals to omit uranium and prevent it from being added back 
in the future.
    On December 20, 2017, President Trump issued Executive 
Order 1317, calling for a national strategy to support a 
domestic supply of critical minerals. The first step was the 
creation of a list of minerals deemed ``critical'' by the 
United States Geological Survey (USGS), which ultimately 
included 35 commodities, including uranium.\1\ After 
significant consultation with the Department of the Interior, 
Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other 
agencies, the Department of Commerce released a report on June 
4, 2019, detailing several strategies to support the stability 
and independence of America's critical minerals supply 
chain.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\83 FR 23295.
    \2\U.S. Department of Commerce. ``A Federal Strategy to Ensure 
Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.'' June 4, 2019. 
https://www.commerce.gov/news/reports/2019/06/federal-strategy-ensure-
secure-and-reliable-supplies-critical-minerals.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Each designation on the critical minerals list was made 
after consideration of a variety of vetted analysis tools and 
models, including the Herfindahl-Hirschman index used by the 
Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to 
identify highly concentrated markets.\3\ Additional tools used 
to produce the list were the U.S. net import reliance 
statistics generated by USGS, Defense Logistics Agency reports 
on the National Defense Stockpile, and the Energy Information 
Administration's 2016 Uranium Marketing Annual Report.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\U.S. Geological Survey. Mineral Commodity Summaries 2019. 
https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nmic/mineral-commodity-summaries.
    \4\Ibid.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Proponents of H.R. 3405 argue that uranium is strictly a 
fuel mineral and therefore should not be included on the list 
of critical minerals. To the contrary, uranium is an extremely 
valuable element with both fuel and non-fuel applications. 
Because it is deemed a locatable mineral and governed under the 
General Mining Law of 1872, its inclusion in a list of non-fuel 
critical minerals seems entirely appropriate. Non-fuel 
applications of uranium include use in space missions, naval 
military operations, and medical isotope production and 
development.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\U.S. Geological Survey. Draft Critical Minerals List--Summary of 
Methodology and Background Information. 2018. https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/
2018/1021/ofr20181021.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Supporters of this legislation also argue that the domestic 
supply of uranium is not at significant risk, as large 
percentages of imports are secured from allied nations, and 
therefore, uranium's designation as a critical mineral does not 
meet the criteria of having a supply chain vulnerable to 
disruption. However, in 2018, 97% of domestic demand for 
uranium was met by foreign imports.\6\ Total production from 
U.S. uranium mines in 2018 was 33 percent lower than production 
in 2017.\7\ Production in 2019 is likely to be even lower, less 
than what is needed to power just one of our 98 domestic 
nuclear reactors.\8\ Much of our current military demand is met 
by stockpiles built during the Cold War.\9\ The world's largest 
uranium producer is Kazakhstan, with Russia and Uzbekistan also 
major producers.\10\ China, too, is signaling an interest to 
enter the uranium market, buying large mines in Namibia.\11\ 
Overall, more than half of imports to the United States in 2018 
originated in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, or Namibia.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\U.S. Energy Information Administration. ``2018 Uranium Marketing 
Annual Report.'' May 2019. https://www.eia.gov/uranium/marketing/pdf/
umar2018.pdf.
    \7\U.S. Energy Information Administration. Domestic Uranium 
Production Report--Annual. May 16, 2019. https://www.eia.gov/uranium/
production/annual.
    \8\Uranium Producers of America staff briefing. June 2019.
    \9\Thomas Duesterberg, ``Opponents Of Trade Relief For Uranium 
Mining Have Unconvincing Case.'' Forbes. March 25, 2019. https://
www.forbes.com/sites/thomasduesterberg/2019/03/25/opponents-of-section-
232-relief-for-uranium-mining-relief-have-unconvincing-case/
#274ce28b3f8d.
    \10\U.S. Department of Commerce. ``A Federal Strategy to Ensure 
Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.'' June 4, 2019. 
https://www.commerce.gov/news/reports/2019/06/federal-strategy-ensure-
secure-and-reliable-supplies-critical-minerals.
    \11\Thomas Duesterberg, ``Opponents Of Trade Relief For Uranium 
Mining Have Unconvincing Case.'' Forbes. March 25, 2019. https://
www.forbes.com/sites/thomasduesterberg/2019/03/25/opponents-of-section-
232-relief-for-uranium-mining-relief-have-unconvincing-case/
#274ce28b3f8d.
    \12\U.S. Energy Information Administration. ``2018 Uranium 
Marketing Annual Report.'' May 2019. https://www.eia.gov/uranium/
marketing/pdf/umar2018.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Admittedly, the U.S. also imports uranium from Canada and 
Australia, but their ability to be significant suppliers in the 
future is less certain. An increase in supply from Kazakhstan 
and other nations has lowered global prices, and as free market 
countries, they are vulnerable to being out-competed just like 
the United States. For instance, Canada's McArthur River Mine 
shut down indefinitely in 2018, representing about 15 percent 
of global production.\13\ With this closure, only one Canadian 
uranium mine remains operationa1.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\Natalie Obiko Pearson, Stephen Stapczynski, and Joe Deaux. 
``Cameco Suspends Production Indefinitely at Uranium Mine.'' Bloomberg. 
July 25, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-25/
cameco-suspends-production-at-canadian-uranium-mine-indefinitely.
    \14\Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. ``Uranium mines and 
mills.'' http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/uranium/mines-and-mills/
index.cfm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    H.R. 3405 disregards the analysis of multiple defense, 
economic, and science-based government organizations in the 
listing of uranium as critical. This bill would not only remove 
uranium from the critical minerals list, but also prevents it 
from being added back at any point in the future, without 
contingency for sudden global supply disruptions. This 
legislation jeopardizes our ability to maintain a stable, 
domestic supply of a material invaluable to our national 
security, not to mention inexpensive, reliable nuclear power. 
For these reasons, we oppose H.R. 3405.

                                   Rob Bishop.
                                   Liz Cheney.
                                   Paul A. Gosar.
                                   Don Young.
                                   Jody B. Hice.
                                   Bruce Westerman.
                                   Louie Gohmert.
                                   Mike Johnson.

                                  [all]