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As Stakes Mount, U.S. Senators Lament Agencies’ Failure to Meet Timelines for Permitting Report Required by Federal Law

While there has been a flurry of activity at the federal level to strengthen U.S. critical mineral supply chains against the backdrop of mounting global and domestic pressures, some of the early proponents of mineral resource policy reform on Capitol Hill are questioning the Biden Administration’s commitment to improving the federal mine permitting process “to help meet growing supply constraints and improve U.S. competitiveness in strategic mineral production.”

In a letter to the Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan were joined by Idaho Senators James E. Risch and Mike Crapo, as well as North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, in calling out the agencies for their failure to meet a statutory deadline to produce a report outlining options to improve the federal mineral permitting process within a year of enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law on November 15, 2021.

Specifically, the Senators point to Section 40206 of the Act, laying out nine specific ways to improve permitting and state that “the nine improvement priorities and the report are the basis of a new performance metric […] to meet the permitting and review process improvements it requires and will serve as the basis of new annual reporting to Congress to accompany the President’s budget.”

They lament that “DOI and USDA have outwardly paid little attention to [these serious and substantial requirements that represent a first step to address serious deficiencies in the federal permitting process] and internally appear to have devoted critical resources to discretionary projects that trace back to Executive Orders, rather than legally binding federal statutes,” and ask several specific questions.

See the full letter here.

The Senators’ letter touches on an important issue.  As ARPN previously outlined:

“While it is certainly encouraging that these developments are not only underway but are also increasingly making headlines and garnering the attention of the American people, it is important to ensure that legislative efforts to strengthen our nation’s critical mineral supply chains are not only enacted, but actually implemented, and that timelines set forth in enacted legislation are in fact met.” 

Earlier in May, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a senior member of the committee, raised similar concerns in a series of joint letters to key members of the Biden Administration.

Federal mine permitting reform is an importance piece of the “all-of-the-above” puzzle.  With geopolitical stakes continuing to mount and the midterm elections slowly fading into the background, here’s hoping that U.S. stakeholders are ready to not only talk the talk on strengthening U.S. critical mineral supply chains, but also walk the walk.