Policy Briefs

Presidential Executive Order 13807

Signed by President Trump on August 15, 2017, Executive Order 13807 (the EO), furthers the goal of streamlining the permitting process for infrastructure projects.

The EO attempts to establish discipline, transparency and accountability in the permitting process through:

  1. Tracking and reporting permitting progress and agency performance.
  2. Setting a new two-year target for agencies to complete the permitting process.
  3. Requiring one federal decision record for each “major infrastructure project”.
  4. Mandating a final agency decision to be made within 90 days of completing the federal decision record.
  5. Imposing budgetary penalties to agencies who fail to meet the requisite milestones.

Each of these steps will help to ensure that America’s infrastructure needs are met. As the EO articulates, “America needs infrastructure investment to strengthen our economy, enhance our competitiveness in world trade, create jobs and increase wages for our workers, and reduce the costs of goods and services for our families.”


National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (HR 520 & SB 145)

The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (H.R. 520 & S.B.145) introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (NV.) and Sen. Dean Heller (NV) could shorten the mine permitting process by providing:

  1. Efficient, timely and thorough permit reviews.
  2. Incorporating best practices for coordination among state and federal agencies.
  3. Clarifying responsibilities in an effort to avoid duplication.
  4. Setting binding timeframes.

In March 2018, the bill passed in the House Natural Resources Committee, signaling a bipartisan appeal for change.


FAST 41

Congress, recognizing the inefficiency in permitting for infrastructure projects, enacted FAST 41. FAST 41 was designed to improve the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of the Federal environmental review and authorization process for covered infrastructure projects

The primary purpose of FAST 41 is to:

  1. Encourage coordination between government agencies.
  2. Increase transparency of the permitting process.
  3. Improve accountability on delayed projects.

Oversight hearings in the US Senate indicate that the Congress is open to discussion to consider other projects in this definition. Idaho CuMo has joined other industry and association leaders to encourage Congress to designate mining projects as “infrastructure projects” under FAST 41 in an effort to reduce permitting times, decrease foreign dependence on strategic minerals and metals, and shore up our Nation’s economy and infrastructure.


United States Geological Survey (USGS)

The United States Geological Survey needs to be refocused to its core mission of maintaining geological and geophysical surveying; and mapping and maintaining ongoing inventories of our Nation’s mineral resources.

The lack of electronically accessible, up-to-date topographical, geological, and geophysical data has negatively affected our nation’s ability to explore, find and produce strategic and critical minerals essential to our Nation’s economic well-being and national security.


Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA)

The Open Book on the Equal Access for Justice Act (H.R. 1033 & S.B. 378) introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (GA) and Sen. John Barrasso (WY), will create and maintain online searchable databases with information about the attorney’s fees and other expenses awarded to prevailing parties other than the United States in certain agency-conducted adversary adjudication proceedings, and civil action court cases (excluding tort cases) or settlement agreements to which the United States is a party.

Currently, EAJA lacks any oversight and there exists no recent, reliable data available on the costs of litigation. Given the frequency of environmental litigation and the endless associated costs, it is reasonable to assume that EAJA expenditures for the government and the taxpayer are exorbitant. Congresswoman Lumis stated, “large environmental groups have hijacked [EAJA] into a means to perpetually fund a cottage industry based on suing the federal government over and over again” and these groups “have been dipping into a bottomless, untraceable money pit to push their political agenda”.

H.R. 1033 has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.


National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains three provisions added by the U.S. House of Representatives to shore up our Nation’s national defense and decrease our foreign reliance on non-allied countries for critical minerals and metals.

  1. Section 873 prohibits procurement of defense sensitive material from non-allied nations.
  2. Section 343 mandates that copper, molybdenum, gold, nickel, lead, silver, and certain compounds found in fertilizers, be added to the critical minerals list.
  3. Representative Amodei (NV) amended the NDAA to significantly reduce mine permitting processes from ten years to two.

The NDAA passed the House with all three provisions, but the Senate passed it without the above provisions. The NDAA will now head to negotiation conferences between the Senate and the House.


 

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