Proposed NEPA Changes Provide a Positive First Step in Addressing Permitting Inefficiencies
January 9, 2020 - The National Mining Association (NMA) today applauded the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) long-awaited proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) governing regulations.
“The mining industry is all too familiar with the project delays and escalating costs associated with NEPA compliance,” said Rich Nolan, NMA president and CEO. “Our permitting process is broken, and NEPA’s historical problems play a big part in the unnecessary obstacles standing in the way of the responsible use of our natural resources. Today’s action is a concrete step in the right direction. The proposal reflects the original intent of NEPA, which is to require a hard look at the environmental impacts of major federal projects, not to stop projects in their tracks.”
NMA supports CEQ’s commonsense efforts to reduce government bureaucracy while maintaining robust environmental protections. NMA specifically welcomes proposals to bring clarity to the NEPA regulations by refining definitions of key terms, providing page limits and timeframes to ensure expedient reviews, and to allow greater applicant participation in the process under strong agency oversight. The proposal’s provisions requiring the streamlining and synchronization of decisions involving multiple agencies and making more efficient use of previous reviews when conducting subsequent related reviews will significantly reduce redundant and duplicative agency reviews. NMA also strongly endorses CEQ’s intent to focus reviews on significant, relevant issues and to determine the alternatives analysis process accordingly.
While the U.S. is rich in mineral resources, permitting delays and regulatory uncertainty hamper investment in our domestic resources, increasing our reliance on imports. U.S. government’s process for securing the necessary mine permits now takes close to 10 years – one of the longest mine permitting processes in the world. By comparison, permitting processes in Australia and Canada, which have similar environmental standards and practices as the U.S., take between two and three years. Permitting delays have been called the most significant risk to mining projects in the United States.
Our import dependence for key mineral commodities has doubled over the past two decades and continues to rise. The U.S. is 100 percent import dependent for 18 key mineral resources, and more than 50 percent import dependent for an additional 30 mineral commodities – even though we have significant mineral deposits of some of these commodities within our borders. Less than half of the mineral needs of U.S. manufacturing are met from domestically mined resources. As a result, key domestic industries are unnecessarily vulnerable to disruptions from extended, complex and fragile supply chains.