Bill Tracker 082015

jessica_santinaCongressional Delegation Legislation Update
Bills From The Hill That Matter To Nevadans
Compiled by Jessica Santina

H.R. 2733 – Nevada Native Nations Land Act

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Synopsis: This act includes seven tribal lands measures that convey federally held land to local entities, as well as a smaller purchase by the City of Elko.

  • Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians: Would transfer approximately 26,278 acres of BLM land to Elko County to be held in trust to allow the South Fork Reservation to expand grazing and agriculture, develop housing, protect cultural and archaeological areas, and to resolve “checkerboard” issues. It also would transfer approximately 373 acres of BLM land to Elko County to be held in trust for residential development, recreation and conservation.
  • Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe: Would transfer approximately 19,095 acres of BLM land to Humboldt Count to be held in trust to resolve checkerboard issues that may create law enforcement and emergency personnel jurisdiction questions, and to enable tribe to plan for housing development.
  • Shoshone Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation: Would transfer approximately 82 acres of U.S. Forest Service land to Elko County to be held in trust for housing and infrastructure to address reservation housing shortage and to recruit doctors, nurses, law enforcement, conservation officers, and first responders.
  • Summit Lake Paiute Tribe: Would transfer approximately 880 acres of BLM land to Humboldt County to be held in trust for protection and management of Summit Lake’s natural resources and fish population and to unify reservation around lake.
  • Reno-Sparks Indian Colony: Would transfer approximately 11,180 of BLM land in Washoe County to be held in trust for the creation of a safety buffer around the Hungry Valley community, which is surrounded by lands on which potentially dangerous activities such as off-roading, target shooting, illegal dumping, and unauthorized motorcycle racing
  • Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe: Would transfer approximately 24,054 acres of BLM land in Washoe County to be held in trust to expand the reservation boundary to fully incorporate the watershed of Pyramid Lake, with other sections to be used for potential economic development and management efficiency.
  • Elko County: Would sell approximately 275 acres of BLM land at fair market value to Elko County to establish a motocross, bicycle, off-roading, or stock-car racing area. County would pay all costs associated with surveys and administrative work for preparation and completion of transfer.

Action: Introduced June 11, 2015 in House and referred to House Committee on Natural Resources. It was then referred on July 1, 2015 to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. Subcommittee hearings were held on July 15, 2015 for committee consideration.

Sponsor Comments:  “These are all cases where local control and economic self-determination are preferable to Washington-centric management by a federal agency,” said Amodei. “These lands will enable the tribes to chart brighter futures for their communities and to better preserve their cultural heritage.”

Jessica’s Take: Amodei, along with Senator Dean Heller and other members of Congress whose states contain vast swaths of federally owned land, has long complained about the delays involved in the permitting process for mining on these lands. They cite great financial losses as well as a slowing of American competitiveness in manufacturing as a result, and have tried repeatedly to get control of these lands in order to expedite things (see American Mineral Security Act of 2015).

But mining, as they are repeatedly finding, is not the only area in which the logjam of federal bureaucracy is holding things up. Known for his focus on local, bipartisan legislation, Amodei is frequently successful in passing legislation. This bill looks at opportunities for tribal land development and ways of expediting it. When Amodei first introduced it in 2014, it was approved by the Natural Resources Committee, though parts were thrown out. It may stand a chance of success in Congress this go ’round, if it can continue to gather enough bipartisan support to make it a priority, but it’s a lot of land to consider.

S. 883 – American Mineral Security Act of 2015

Sponsors: Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Synopsis: This bill amends the National Materials and Minerals Policy, Research and Development Act of 1980 to direct the President to: (1) establish an analytical and forecasting capability for identifying critical mineral market factors so as to avoid supply shortages, mitigate price volatility, and prepare for demand growth and other market shifts; and (2) encourage federal agencies to facilitate development and production of domestic resources to meet national critical material and minerals needs.

The Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (Director) shall publish in the Federal Register a methodology for determining which minerals qualify as critical minerals, and review it at least every two years.

The Director is also required, within four years after enactment of this Act, to complete a comprehensive national assessment of each critical mineral. Both the Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture shall: (1) complete federal permitting and review processes governing critical mineral production on federal land with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, and (2) report to Congress on additional measures and implementation options.

Prescribes a Federal Register notice process for the issuance of a critical mineral exploration or mine permit. The Department of Energy shall conduct research and development to promote: (1) the production, use, and recycling of critical minerals throughout the supply chain; and (2) develop alternatives to critical minerals that do not occur in significant abundance in the United States.

The Director shall publish an annual report that includes, as part of the Mineral Commodity Summaries, a comprehensive review of critical mineral production, consumption, and recycling patterns.

The Department of Labor (DOL) must assess the domestic availability of technically trained personnel with the necessary skillset for critical mineral activities.

The Director and the DOL shall jointly arrange with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering to coordinate with the National Science Foundation on a study to design an interdisciplinary program on critical minerals that will support the critical mineral supply chain and increase domestic critical mineral development.
The Director and the DOL shall also jointly conduct a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education to implement integrated critical mineral education, training, and workforce development programs. The National Critical Materials Act of 1984 is repealed.

Action: Introduced on March 26, 2015 in Senate. It was read twice and referred Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. On May 12, 2015, hearings were held for committee consideration.
Sponsor Comments: “To improve the efficiency of the notoriously slow federal permitting process for new mines, the American Mineral Security Act includes a series of reasonable steps to reduce delays and ensure timely decisions,” Murkowski testified. “The seven to 10 years it currently takes to approve a new mine in the United States is often singled out as a serious liability for our competitiveness and ability to draw investment.”

Jessica’s Take: This issue is not new, but it does recently seem to be gaining traction. A CBS News’ 60 Minutes episode even highlighted the importance of mining to the nation’s security and economic strength. This bill has received wide support from the mining industry and members of both sides of the aisle in Congress. National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn commented that this bill would “better prepare our country to meet the competitive challenges we face in strengthening future economic growth and the U.S. manufacturing revival.”

Considering that mining is a top source of revenue for the state and one of its biggest industries, ensuring it a smooth path to growth makes sense. What many like about this bill is its assurance of accountability and blanket call for efficiency at all times, with checks and balances in place such as a call for the Small Business Association to examine the usefulness of regulations on critical materials industries, as well as a priority list of urgently needed materials.

As the nation faces a critical shortage of minerals needed in the global manufacturing marketplace, many are worried that without such provisions, the industry could halt worldwide. The sweeping legislation looks promising and there seems to be a groundswell of support.