Democrats push to revise mining law, citing clean energy
But it’s unclear whether the mining reform legislation will draw support from moderate Democrats or Republicans, and the mining industry is expressing serious concerns about the measure.
The debate comes as climate advocates are faced with an uncomfortable truth: Meeting Biden’s ambitious goals for electric vehicle adoption will require a big increase in mineral production at home and abroad.
The details: President of the Chamber of Natural Resources Raul M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) presented the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act April 26. Senator Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
The measure would modernize and reform the Mining Act of 1872which has remained virtually unchanged since its enactment over a century ago.
- The legislation would require mining companies to pay royalties for new and existing operations on federal lands. Currently, mining companies do not pay any royalties to the federal governmentunlike oil and gas companies that pay a fee to drill on public land.
- The bill would also set stricter environmental standards under mining law and require the government to consult with indigenous tribes before allowing mines near tribal communities.
“The transition to a clean energy future will inevitably involve mining – no doubt,,” Grijalva said at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, which marked the 150th anniversary of President Ulysses S. Grant signing of the mining law of 1872.
“But that doesn’t mean we should risk permanent damage to our sacred places, our wilderness and our health,” he said.
An uncertain path
the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing on Thursday to consider the bill. But the bill faces an uncertain path across the House and Senate, with little support from Democrats or moderate Republicans so far.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
Lauren Wodarskya spokeswoman for Cortez Masto, said in an email to The Climate 202 yesterday, “Senator Cortez Masto will continue to oppose legislation that negatively impacts Nevada’s mining industry and most 30,000 jobs it supports.”
Grijalva told reporters after Tuesday’s press conference, however, that he believed the legislation posed no “political risk” to his supporters.
“In Arizona, when you say there should be permanent mining [ban] around the Grand Canyon, both sides of the aisle and independents overwhelmingly support this,” he said.
the National Mining Associationa trade group that represents large mining companies, has expressed strong reservations about the bill.
“It’s the wrong legislation at the wrong time” Katie Sweeneyexecutive vice president and general counsel for the association, said in a phone interview with The Climate 202.
The measure “will drive mining development off our shores [and] increase our dependence on Chinese metals,” Sweeney added, noting that the United States already depends on China and other countries for many minerals used in electric car batteries, including graphite, lithium, nickel and cobalt.
Still, Sweeney hailed Biden’s recent decision to invoke the Defense Production Act to further boost domestic mineral production, calling it a “very worthwhile” move.
The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled an action plan to improve the permitting process for major infrastructure projects. (More on that below.)
Yesterday, on a call with reporters to preview the announcement, a White House official said the National Economic Council and several agencies would work together to ensure that the extraction of critical minerals is done in an “environmentally friendly” manner.
“We appreciate that the laws that are on the books are quite outdated – in some cases, decades or even centuries old,” said Samantha Silverberg, the deputy infrastructure implementation coordinator for the White House. “And having a sustainable supply of these minerals is essential for electric vehicles as well as a variety of other renewable purposes.”
A White House fact sheet has been added that the administration “will work to reform outdated permit laws and regulations, such as the Mining Act of 1872, to set higher standards for the environment, sustainability, safety, consultation tribalism and community engagement”.
Biden administration seeks to revive infrastructure projects
The Biden administration on Wednesday released a five-part action plan to “strengthen and accelerate” the permitting process for major infrastructure projects, including clean energy generation and transmission projects, after the passing of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act last year.
The plan calls on federal agencies to coordinate early in the permitting process, establish clear timelines for major projects, and engage in “meaningful outreach with states, tribal nations, territories and communities.” local”, according to the White House fact sheet.
Brenda Mallorypresident of the Environmental Quality Counciltold reporters on Tuesday’s call that the plan would help accelerate “well-designed projects that support the president’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals” without cutting corners on environmental reviews.
Alex HerrgotPresident of the association Authorization Institute and former executive director of the Federal Licensing Improvement Steering Councilsaid in a statement to The Climate 202 that the plan will “simplify an overly complicated permitting process that has existed for too long in a black box.”
Department of Energy launches $2.5 billion fund to update power grid
the Department of Energy tuesday issued a request for information seeking public comment on a $2.5 billion program to build new and improved transmission lines across the country.
Investments, stemming from the bipartisan infrastructure law and part of the agency’s new plan Building a Better Network Initiativeaim to help the nation achieve President Bidenhas set itself the goal of running the national grid with 100% clean electricity by 2035.
Rep. Westerman is working on legislation to protect giant sequoias
Representative Bruce Westerman (Ark.), the best Republican in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the only registered forester in Congress, is working to craft legislation to save California’s giant redwoods – the iconic natural carbon sinks he says are being burned by wildfires after more than a century of poor forest management and a warming and drying climate.
Starting this month, Westerman, along with the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Representative Scott Peters (D-Calif.), plans to introduce the Save our redwoods to help the Forest Service pursue management projects, such as prescribed burning and forest thinning, to reduce the risk of forest fires.
“Forestry is where we should all be able to come together to practice sound forest management to care for those forests, and then we can have the most immediate climate impact,” Westerman said in an interview with The Climate 202. Tuesday.
Asked about reducing the use of fossil fuels, one of the main drivers of climate change, Westerman said that “trees are on a larger scale. They are more pragmatic and more economical. It is the number one way to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
But, he added, “if we can find cleaner sources of energy, we should always work on that as well.” Beyond expanding renewables, Westerman said “we need to figure out how to make the fossil fuels we use cleaner.”
The Earth even has a chance of reaching 1.5 degrees of warming soon
the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday there was a 50% chance that the annual global temperature would warm to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels – a crucial warming limit set in the agreement of Climate Betting, The Post’s Kasha Patel reports. In 2015, the probability of achieving this goal was zero, highlighting the rapid pace of human-caused climate change.
“A single year of overshoot above 1.5°C does not mean that we have crossed the emblematic threshold of the Paris agreement, but it does reveal that we are getting closer and closer to a situation where 1, 5°C could be exceeded for an extended period,” Leon Hermanson, a UK Met Office researcher who led the report, said in a press release.
Scientists have long warned of the dangers of reaching this threshold, saying that when exceeded over a long period, more intense and record-breaking weather events will occur.
Communities of color last in line for disaster planning in Texas
Kashmere Gardens, a neighborhood in Houston devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, flooding during most storms because rainfall overflows aging drainage systems, trapping families inside their homes.
Despite the constant damage, Texas has not allocated any of the $1 billion in federal funds it has received to protect communities from future disasters in neighborhoods of Houston that are regularly flooded, according to a survey by the US Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentThe post office Tracy Jan reports.
The agency concluded that the state “diverted money from areas and people who needed it most,” while discriminating against predominantly black and Hispanic urban communities and ensuring that white residents living in small towns benefit. The state rejected the agency’s findings, saying it followed HUD-approved criteria.
The case in Texas illustrates the challenge facing the Biden administration as it focuses on racial equity and seeks to protect low-income communities of color from the effects of climate change.