Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
The CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Page 9, line 14, before ``The lead agency'' insert the following:
(1) IN GENERAL.--
Page 9, line 21, before the period insert ``, the cost of cleanup in the event of any release occurring at such site, and the costs incurred by the United States to implement this subsection''.
Page 9, after line 21, insert the following:
(2) FORM.--Such financial assurance shall be in the form of a surety bond, letter of credit, or other instrument that would routinely be accepted in commerce.
(3) AMOUNT BASED ON TYPE OF OPERATION.--The amount of such financial assurance shall be based on the type of mining operation to be conducted.
(4) INSPECTIONS.--The lead agency shall conduct annual inspections and reviews of financial insurance required under this subsection.
The CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 347, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.
Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Here we go again. Another week, another attempt by the House majority to gut critical environmental protections that we know save lives and communities. Right before we left for the August recess, a break I urged the Republican leadership to forego, the House passed a reckless offshore oil drilling bill that risks our shoreline communities along the Atlantic, Pacific, and gulf coasts. And for what? To continue our dependence on fossil fuels.
H.R. 761 is not unknown to Congress. In fact, we had passed a rule and were set to consider it only a few weeks ago before the House majority abruptly pulled it from the floor and rammed through a partisan farm bill instead--a bill that protected farm subsidies, crop insurance guarantees, and handouts for Big Agribusiness, including some Members of this very body, at the expense of the neediest among us, including more than 210,000 children.
Yet here we are today. Once again, the House majority is attempting to not only remove environmental safeguards provided under the National Environmental Policy Act, but to set arbitrary deadlines for its approval process.
I am pleased to once again offer this commonsense amendment that will preserve NEPA protections and ensure that a thorough safety review is conducted.
In 1969, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act, a bipartisan act with strong Republican support, including President Richard Nixon, who understood then that environmental impacts on large projects must be explored, understood, and eventually mitigated.
Under NEPA, any infrastructure project that could have a significant impact is now subject to an environmental impact statement, which outlines the purpose of the project, possible alternatives, the affected environment, and the consequences of completing the project. The findings are then considered prior to final project approval.
Projects with less environmental impact may be subjected to a less detailed environmental assessment instead. Some projects, like the construction of a foot trail, may be deemed to have no significant environmental impact and can receive a categorical exclusion.
Make no mistake, the bill before us today has no foot path. We are talking about major mining projects that could devastate entire communities. There are many aspects of mineral exploration policy for which statutory changes should be considered, such as closing Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act loopholes. Unfortunately, that's not what we're doing here.
As I've noted before, considering that all other major projects, even transit projects with clear environmental benefits, must still go through an environmental impact statement, it is absurd to turn around and exclude from such analysis activities or put an arbitrary time limit on it that has such potential to actually destroy ecosystems and regional economies.
My commonsense amendment, Mr. Chairman, would simply restore that process so that there can be peace and comfort of mind to affected communities, and I urge its adoption.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. LAMBORN. Mr. Chairman, if you like the current 7- to 10-year timeframe to do mining permits in this country, then you will love this amendment; but this bill is all about making it possible to do mining in this country and use our natural resources in a reasonable, commonsense way.
Other countries, like Australia and Canada, have a 2-year time cycle from beginning to end to get your application and permit done so you can begin mining. In this country, it's 7 to 10 years. That's why we have declining activity of the well-paying jobs that mining produces, the resources that are available from mining so we don't have to rely on countries like China.
This amendment would eviscerate, this amendment would gut, what this bill is trying to do. It's unnecessary because NEPA already applies. NEPA remains in force. This just allows needless and endless bureaucratic delays by allowing NEPA to do an environmental impact statement at almost every step in the whole process.
It is important to have a certainty of when the process is over so you know whether or not you can invest in a long-term project like this. Seven to 10 years is beyond any of our economic cycles. It is not feasible from a business standpoint to wait that long in a commodity market like minerals and metals to make these investment decisions. You to have certainty, you have to have closure, you have to have a time certain that you're done.
So the 30-month timeframe is critical. We respect and uphold NEPA. It remains in effect, but we get rid of the ability to do it at every step in the process.
This amendment would be a backward step and back to the current status quo which makes it harder to have [Page: H5616]
mining projects in this country with the jobs that they create, with the benefit to our economy that these minerals allow for.
Mr. Chairman, I would urge a strong ``no'' on this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I certainly respect my friend and his point of view about the mining industry. I wish it were true that the other side of the aisle respects the NEPA process; but, frankly, we've had bill after bill and amendment after amendment in excess of 100 that actually attack everything from the Clean Water Act to the Clean Air Act that have resisted regulation even when it comes to public health and particulate matter, for example. They have assaulted the NEPA process every step of the way.
In this bill, there's a huge carve-out for one industry--the mining industry. It is not true that the average is 7 to 10 years. It may be true that some have had that. But it is also true that a NEPA process protects communities. It answers questions. It answers the very uncertainty my friend talked about. But sometimes it answers that uncertainty in a way that the industry and its supporters don't like.
I think our job here is not so much to protect wealthy advocates of a particular industry who may also positively influence the financing of campaigns. I think our first duty is to protect public health and safety, those communities that have found themselves devastated because proper environmental analysis, in fact, had not been done. We have seen that all across America from Appalachia to southern Illinois to in the West.
I, too, want to make sure we unlock strategic
minerals and that the United States has them available when it needs it. But I don't believe that the tradeoff has to be at the expense of every community that could potentially be the site of a mine.
Mr. Chairman, I actually strongly urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' for this commonsense amendment to restore an environmental analysis process that, in fact, has worked.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. PEARCE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Chairman, I would make a comment to my friend from Virginia that we in the West are being protected from ourselves, we are being protected from jobs. The devastation is in our jobs.
I have one county--I have 18 counties--one county is 7,000 square miles. That is three times the size of Delaware. It is six times the size of Rhode Island. It has a population of 3,725 people. The jobs have gone away. There used to be 11 rare-earth mineral mines in the southern district of New Mexico. Today there are none. All of those jobs have gone to China.
This is just a commonsense bill that says we are going to go through the process. We have economies that are being devastated, but it's not an environmental devastation. It is from the environmentalist who will sue to stop every single job in the West. We've lost our mining jobs; we've lost our timber jobs. These are areas that are not sitting out here making life unlivable and unhealthy; these are areas that are looking for jobs.
I would urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment with respect to my friend.