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National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SCHOCK. Madam Chair, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act.

Many Americans might not be aware, but our country is facing a crisis when it comes to rare earth elements. These naturally occurring elements are vital to our national security because they are essential components in defense weapon systems. However, their importance does not end there. Everyday items that Americans are accustomed to, such as cell phones and computers, require rare earth elements. Our energy infrastructure is dependent on these resources, including: pipelines, refining capacity, electrical power generation and transmission, and renewable energy production. Strategic and critical minerals are also used to support the manufacturing, agriculture, housing, and telecommunications industries. Even medical equipment utilizes these elements.

During the 1960s and continuing to the 1980s, America was the premiere leader in rare earth element production. However, since then production has moved almost exclusively to China. They now produce about 97 percent of rare earth oxides, are the single exporter of commercial quantities of rare earth refined metals, and are the manufacturer of the world's strongest magnets.

What is most disturbing is that China appears to be cutting its rare earth exports and restricting other countries access to these resources. America has become almost totally dependent on China for rare earth elements, and we have lost our domestic capacity to tap into our own supply.

Madam Chair, this House has had lengthy debates about how onerous red-tape and regulations are hurting our country's economy. Unfortunately, over-regulation is hurting our ability to produce rare earth elements. Frivolous lawsuits and a maze of a permitting process have caused America to no longer be a leader in rare earth element manufacturing. H.R. 4402, corrects this problem. This legislation will allow our country to more efficiently develop these essential resources.

The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act will cut red-tape and streamline the permitting process to begin a mineral production project which can currently take over a decade. This bill will require the permitting review process to be completed within 30 months. Additionally, the legislation ensures projects are not indefinitely delayed by litigation by setting time limits to file legal challenges to mining projects.

Overall, this legislation would require the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to better help develop our rare earth elements here at home.

Madam Chair, this bill is vital to our national security and our economy, and I urge its swift passage.

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