The success of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in reducing transportation emissions by rapidly accelerating the adoption of zero-emission vehicles hinges upon our ability to supply critical minerals needed to manufacture batteries and renewable energy equipment. As a result of a global shift toward clean energy technologies, worldwide demand for critical minerals is expected to grow exponentially by 2040 relative to 2020 production (IEA). Securing the domestic supply chain for critical minerals will create well-paying U.S. jobs, ensure production and processing are held to the highest environmental standards, and reduce our dependence on foreign adversaries.
ZETA recommends the following as part of a designated project-based approach to permitting reform–analogous in concept to a lands bill–focused on increasing the domestic production of critical minerals for the electric vehicle supply chain:
- Appoint a single lead Federal agency to oversee the application process from start to finish for designated projects. Information such as deadlines, descriptions of documents required for environmental reviews, and other relevant materials should be provided to the applicant by the Federal lead agency.
- Address the recent Rosemont decision to ensure domestic lithium production and other critical minerals are not constrained. Senator Cortez-Masto and Senator Risch recently authored the Mining Regulatory Clarity Act, which provides a solution by “reaffirm[ing] long-held practice and previous legal interpretation that some public land use under a mining claim inherently accompanies exploration and extraction activities for other mining-support activities.”
- Identify a specific set of critical minerals projects designated as important to national security and thus eligible for a reformed and streamlined review process. If a critical minerals project has already been supported by the Defense Production Act, it would automatically be designated as a project of national importance.
- Align permitting review timelines for identified critical mineral projects with the administration's clean energy and transportation deployment timelines by creating a two-year maximum deadline for the lead agency to review projects and issue a final decision. Agencies should be required to complete Environmental Assessments (EA) in one year and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) in two years.
- Create a 150-day deadline for legal appeal of the lead agency’s final decision to ensure litigation risk does not unnecessarily delay properly permitted, high-priority critical mineral and battery projects.
- Direct the federal permitting agency to issue a Record of Decision on proposed critical mineral production projects, thereby eliminating the requirement to review “no action” alternatives.
- Direct appeals of such decisions directly to the D.C. Circuit Court to ensure a timely judicial review process.
- Support greater domestic exploration by streamlining early-stage critical mineral exploration activities under a 5-acre NOI by immediately crediting back land that has been reclaimed and reseeded.