Former Dem staffer to lead new mining, manufacturing group

The group, which launched Wednesday, brings a coalition of labor, business and civic groups together on the issue. It will focus mostly on increasing access to rare-earth minerals, the raw materials that are key for manufacturing, particularly in the tech sector. China controls the vast majority of that market. 

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Republicans agree with many of the group’s positions on reducing red tape, EPA regulatory certainty and expanding mineral exploration.

But Maurice Daniel, the group’s executive director, served as former Vice President Al Gore’s national political director, as Rep. Bobby Rush's (D-Ill.) chief of staff and worked on a handful of Democratic campaigns. He also donated to President Obama’s campaign in 2008, and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) PAC in 2010.

Daniel said the issues Mined in America is concerned with cross party lines. He also said that's why the group decided to go with a 501(c)(4), as he said the goal is “raising public awareness” rather than promoting a specific candidate.

“I know there are Democratic elected officials who feel this way in Congress, and in the House,” Daniel told The Hill in a Wednesday interview. “I know for a fact that there are members who come from the manufacturing belt who want to see the manufacturing sector revitalized in an environmentally response way. And there’s no daylight between us on those issues.”

Daniel said the group wants to show domestic mining and manufacturing can abide by environmental regulations currently on the books, but that the EPA under Obama has been too aggressive in testing its boundaries.

Specifically, Mined in America wants to reduce permitting red tape for mining operations. It also wants to restrict the EPA’s vetoing of Clean Water Act permits, which the group said would spur $220 billion in mining investment.

Though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently overruled an EPA retroactive veto for a mountaintop-removal mining project in West Virginia, the mining industry is concerned EPA is now trying to preemptively nix a proposed mine in Alaska through the Clean Water Act.

He said the West Virginia mountaintop-mining project is an example of an EPA decision “made on a bureaucratic whim.” He said such actions, which have become more frequent, drive away investment in mining for rare-earth minerals.

“We believe that mining can happen within the parameters that the EPA set,” Daniel said. “We can operate within those parameters as long as the ground on which we operate doesn’t continue to shift mid-game.”

— This story was updated at 5:44 p.m.