U.S. Department of the Interior

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee questioned the merits of the prior administration’s last ditch effort to block “mineral access on Federal land” and the potential of this regulation “harming our nation’s economic and strategic potential.”

Bishop sent the letter last Thursday to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asking them to sift through the sea of the prior administration’s “midnight regulations” in the interest of “national security.”  Bishop wrote, “Today, the United States imports 100% of our scandium (mostly from China), 76% of our cobalt and more than 90% of our nickel requirements thus making this withdrawal inconsistent with national security interests.”

On the national security front, Bishop pointed out missed opportunities for the U.S. to emerge from mineral dependency. “The two projects affected by this illegal withdrawal are believed to hold significant quantities of several strategic and critical minerals including nickel, scandium and cobalt,” he said.

The Colorado Mining Association told Western Wire the “CMA welcomes the Secretary’s review of the mineral withdrawal to ensure that critical minerals vital to the U.S. economy and the Administration’s goal of making America ‘energy dominant’.”

Bringing certainty to the mining industry has become a priority for the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources which seeks to “shield” the mining industry from “politically motivated actions” that could hinder economic development and future energy projects.

In a statement put out by the subcommittee, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) explains how politically motivated actions have impacted the state of Wyoming. “[T]he effects [of the Obama Administration’s coal moratorium] were felt most by the people in my state who lost good paying mining jobs and the communities that were devastated by drastic reductions in the economic activity our coal industry supports,” Cheney wrote. In Wyoming, this was not a war on coal, this was a direct attack on the livelihoods of the people of my state.”

The prior administration’s regulatory push was largely shepherded by environmental activists, for example, the 20-year mining ban in a large stretch of Oregon. Bishop alluded to this in his letter. “Indeed, millions of acres of Federal lands were inappropriately withdrawn from mineral access due to false premises of environmental protectionism and the intentional misuse of statutory authority,” he said.

Bishop questioned the validity of these regulations saying, “This withdrawal was improperly justified as being valid under FLPMA ‘while Congress considers legislation to permanently withdraw those areas.’ Such a justification is flatly wrong for several reasons.” He concludes that the withdrawal, like many others under the prior administration, was simply “baseless.”

Bishop asked Perdue and Zinke “to conduct a comprehensive and expedited review of all mineral withdrawals executed in the past eight years to determine those of merit and those whose purpose served only to block appropriate development under FLPMA.”

“We believe that Congress should certainly have a say in the matter. For Wyoming, the state most directly and disproportionally affected, this is critical,” Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association Travis Deti stated in the subcommittee’s press release.