Republicans say the bill is needed because the United States is increasingly reliant on imported minerals that are widely seen as key to manufacturing health and national security. The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, H.R. 4402, notes that 67 key minerals are obtained mostly through imports, more than twice the number from 25 years ago.
The GOP says permitting delays in the name of environmental protection have delayed the domestic development of these minerals.
"Unfortunately in recent decades, much of the development and mining of these domestic mineral resources has been hampered or shut down entirely by a combination of special-interest politics by certain self-appointed environmental groups, and by bureaucratic red tape here in Washington," Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah) said during debate. "Often these two factors seem to go hand-in-hand, particularly under the current administration."
The bill streamlines the permitting approval process, and is aimed at putting limits on lawsuits against efforts to mine these minerals, which Bishop said are often "frivolous law suits" meant to delay the permitting process.
"Let me be clear, this bill does not pre-determine the outcome of agency review of such permit applications," he said. "It merely brings clarity to the process and ensures that appropriate agencies will not unreasonably delay consideration, but will at the conclusion of 30 months, issue either a 'yes' or a 'no' decision based on the merits of each individual application."
Most Democrats are likely to oppose the bill, in part because of the possible environmental consequences of the bill. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) added that the bill appears to streamline the permitting process for mining that does not involve strategic minerals.
"It's so broad that despite the bill's title, it would expand mining companies' ability to mine on public land for nearly all minerals, including plentiful minerals like sand and clay and even coal," Polis said. "So, this really is not a discussion of strategic and critical minerals if we're talking about sand and clay."