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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4402, National Strategic and Critical Materials Production Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. This resolution provides for a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 4402, which is the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, and provides for 1 hour of general debate, equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Natural Resources, and makes in order seven specific amendments out of ten which were filed at the Rules Committee. Five of the seven are Democratic amendments and two are Republican. So this is a fair and generous rule and will provide for a balanced and open debate on the merits of this important piece of legislation.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand before the House today in support of this rule, and especially the underlying legislation, which is H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012.

I appreciate the hard work of the bill's chief sponsor, the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Amodei), who understands this situation very well and has put a great deal of time and effort into coming up with a rational and legitimate solution to a problem which we face. Mr. Amodei, as well as the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Hastings), are to be commended in forwarding this bill to the full House for our consideration today.

Our Nation has been blessed with tremendous natural resources, and over the last century these abundant resources are one of the key reasons that has allowed our Nation to emerge as a leading world economic and industrial power. In many aspects, we have only scratched the surface with regard to the development of these abundant natural resources, whether it be in energy, such as coal or oil shale or natural gas deposits, or whether it be in various natural minerals.

One of the cornerstones of manufacturing in the United States includes the access to a stable and steady supply of these types of resources. Unfortunately, in recent decades, much of the development and mining of these domestic mineral resources has been hampered or shut down entirely by a combination of special-interest politics by certain self-appointed environmental groups and by bureaucratic red tape here in Washington. Often these two factors seem to go hand in hand, particularly under the current administration.

We have all felt the pain of seeing what these failed policies have done to energy production in our country. We are more dependent than ever on foreign sources, increasing our trade imbalance, sending our dollars overseas, often to areas of the world that do not have our best interests at heart. It has led to escalating gas prices and escalating price spikes for energy and other commodities, and has made our economy more vulnerable to external international forces largely beyond our immediate control. These failed policies have also led to job losses in the United States in the energy and mining sector, which historically and ironically have been some of the highest paying jobs that middle class work has available.

The bureaucratic delays and regulations regarding the mining of strategic and critical minerals is the exact same thing. By their very nature, these minerals are absolutely essential to manufacturing in electronics, metal alloys, ceramics, glass, magnets, and catalysts used in countless commercial and, especially, defense applications.

Procurement of certain strategic and critical minerals is so crucial that the Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency manage stockpiles of such materials which are deemed so critical that an adequate supply must be maintained at all times to ensure national military preparedness and readiness.

More and more, we have seen that these materials are unfortunately being purchased from overseas and not from U.S. producers, making us wholly dependent upon other countries to ensure our own national security. Critical weapons visions, such as night vision equipment, advanced lasers, avionics, fighter jet canopies, missile guidance systems, and many, many others could not be built without these rare Earth minerals.

The primary duty of Congress under the Constitution is to provide for the common defense. This bill takes us in the right direction for helping to restore U.S. domestic production of critical and strategic minerals by facilitating a more timely permitting process review for mineral exploration projects and to ensure that such essential mineral mining projects are not delayed unnecessarily by frivolous litigation.

Let me be clear, this bill does not predetermine the outcome of agency review of such permit applications. It merely brings clarity to the process and ensures that the appropriate agencies will not unreasonably delay consideration but will, at the conclusion of 30 months, issue either a ``yes'' or ``no'' decision based on the merits of each individual application.

This bill will also help cut the flow of frivolous lawsuits, which are often filed simply as delay tactics.

It's a good bill. It's a fair rule and a good underlying bill, and I urge its adoption.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Then, Madam Speaker, let me yield myself just 1 minute.

To try and put things in parameter of what we're actually doing in this bill, in the sixties to the eighties, the United States was actually the leader in the production of most of these minerals. Today, 97 percent of the rare Earth oil, or 97 percent of the rare Earth oxide, 89 percent of the rare Earth alloy, 75 percent of--I can't pronounce the words--and 60 percent of the small cobalt magnets all come from China. We have lost that to them. The reason for doing that is actually part of bureaucratic delay.

Once again, unlike a lot of comments that have been made about this bill, it doesn't pick winners or losers. It doesn't even change the process. All it does is tell the bureaucracy in Washington to do it, to do it within 30 days, making sure that we have now sped up the process so that we now can do something. Instead of in 7 years, in 4 years, does not help reality. That's the point of this bill. It has nothing to do with other issues. It's only trying to get the process to be sped up so decisions are made in a timely fashion.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Great bill, fair rule. I urge adoption.


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