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Mark Amodei
They're at it again. Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei has reintroduced the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Protection Act of 2013. Last July, a practically identical bill passed the House of Representatives 256-160, with 22 Blue Dogs and other conservative Democrats padding the majority and zero Republicans voting against the bill. But, thankfully, it stalled in the Senate.

Regarding the reintroduction of that bill:

“In the 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, the United States ranked last in permitting delays,” said Amodei, a past president of the Nevada Mining Association. “Duplicative regulations, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination between federal agencies are threatening the economic recovery of my home state and jeopardizing our national security.”
Stir in all the usual code words plus a bit of fear and you've got a measure that will probably get a thumbs-up from the House again even though there are fewer Republicans and fewer Blue Dogs there to lubricate its passage.

In fact, it is the same piece of garbage it was the last time. As Rep. Betty McCollum, the Minnesota Democrat said in the debate on the bill the first time it came up:

H.R. 4402 elevates the narrow special interest of the mining industry above the interests of the American public. For example, this bill gives mining on public lands priority over all other uses—replacing current law that requires public lands to be managed for multiple uses. The White House warns this provision "has the potential to threaten hunting, fishing, recreation and other activities which create jobs and sustain local economies across the country.''

Moreover, H.R. 4402 exempts hardrock mining operations from key provisions of the nation's most important environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. These weakened environmental safeguards would govern mining operations in every region because H.R. 4402 deceptively defines "strategic and critical minerals'' so broadly as to include sand and gravel. This means families and businesses all across the country would have less ability to resist new mining operations that threaten to pollute their community's air and water.

Once upon a time, there were Republicans for whom hunting, fishing and grazing on public lands were also considered important matters. No more, apparently.

The bill's sponsors, and the mining industry that has pushed for this bill, complain about an outdated permitting process. That's pretty hilarious given that the industry still operates under the 1872 Mining Act, a giveaway law whose overhaul it has blockaded for 40 years. It's estimated that the laxity of that law has provided the mining industry with upwards of 3.2 million acres of land at a cost of $250 billion in taxpayer losses from lack of royalties on the minerals extracted. That doesn't count the cost of clean-ups of land wrecked for other purposes by mining practices. And now they want to speed things up by cutting environmental oversight and public participation in managing mining on public land.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 03:18 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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