Republicans present a bill that competes with the Democrats’ proposal: ‘Export our wealth to China and Russia’
House Republican leaders are set to introduce permit reform legislation Thursday aimed at supporting a vital domestic mineral supply chain and promoting energy independence.
The U.S. Mineral Supply Chain Insurance Act, led by House Natural Resources Committee classification member Bruce Westerman, R.A.K., would streamline the licensing and approval processes for hard rock mining projects across the country. Metals such as lithium, cobalt, copper, and nickel are vital to both clean energy and defense technologies, but are largely mined and refined overseas.
“These deposits are so blessed here in the US, we simply don’t develop them,” Westerman told FOX Business in an interview. “It would be one thing if we didn’t have these mineral deposits here in the US and had to buy them from people like China, but the truth is we got the things we needed here.”
“The ideology of ‘not in my backyard’ that the left seems to be pushing is something we have to change course on,” he continued. We cannot continue to export our wealth to China and Russia.
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The Westerman bill — sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee member Kathy McMorris Rodgers, D-W. — would designate a single federal agency to coordinate mine permits, set time limits for approval, prohibit rollbacks of existing mining permits, and promote new ones. In search of boosting domestic production, he ordered the Department of Energy to create a strategic reserve of uranium that would reduce Russia’s dependence on the element.
The legislation is generally aimed at reducing uncertainty for companies and investors involved in mining projects.
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“You’ve got mining jobs, and you’ve also got more processing done,” Westerman said. “The bill addresses the obstacles that prevent jobs in both areas,” he added.
“We’re already mining better than anywhere in the world, but we want to stay ahead of the curve and hone those mining and processing technologies.”
However, China extracts about 55% of the world’s mineral resources and refines 85%, according to the White House Supply Chain Report last year. By comparison, the United States mined only 6% of global copper supply, 5.7% of global zinc supply, 0.67% of global nickel supply, 0.4% of global cobalt supply, and 0% of global graphite supply last year.
Onerous permitting processes and environmental reviews backed by Democrats and green groups have prevented the country from increasing mineral supplies, according to Westerman and industry groups. The Biden administration has rescinded approval or introduced roadblocks for large mining projects in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota and Nevada since taking office, citing several environmental and wildlife protection measures.
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Natural Resources President Raul Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, and Senator Martin Heinrich, DNM, introduced legislation in May that would increase restrictions on mining despite their individual support for clean energy and a green transition from fossil fuels. The bill was supported by several environmental groups that also support green energy efforts.
“If you go back and look at the Rebuild Better Act — the same bill they were saying we need to electrify everything and get rid of fossil fuels, build electric cars, they had all these incentives to decarbonize the grid,” Westman said. Fox Business. “The bill itself had provisions there like closing the Resolution copper mine in Superior, Arizona, which could supply 20% of American demand for copper over the next 50 years,”
“They would have spent $350 million of taxpayer money to close a mine in which they invested $2 billion,” he added.
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Meanwhile, Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin, DW.Va. , unveiled its permit bill on Wednesday evening that will seek to fast-track energy projects, including fossil fuel infrastructure. Manchin said the bill would be put into government funding legislation that must be approved by Congress by the end of the month to avoid a shutdown.
However, dozens of Democratic lawmakers led by Grijalva declared their opposition to the bill.