Summary: Burgex hosts the discussion regarding the Bureau of Land Management Public Lands Rule and the impacts it will have on the use of public lands in the future. This proposed ruling would have an effect on all resource industries, as well as recreational activities. Anyone who uses the United State’s public lands should be considered about what could happen to the use of these lands and resources in the future.
Read the full transcript or watch the video below.
Chris Summers: Well, first of all, hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us for our town hall to discuss the BLM’s proposed public lands rule and the impacts it may have on the natural resources industry here in the United States. I’m Chris Summers, CEO of Burgex, here with our compliance manager, Amanda Burgess, as well as Utah Congressman John Curtis and American Exploration and Mining Association’s Mark Compton. Before we dive in, I’d like to introduce our esteemed guests. Congressman Curtis represents Utah’s third congressional district.
Since being elected to Congress in 2017, he has worked on 15 pieces of legislation that were actually signed into law, ranging in diverse topics, including better managing our public lands. On the Natural Resources Committee, he serves as vice chair of the Federal Lands Subcommittee and member of the Energy and Mineral Resources Committee. Congressman, thanks for being with us today.
Mark Compton currently serves as executive director for the AEMA and has over a quarter century of government affairs experience.Mark also has previously served as the president of the Utah Mining Association and as AEMA’s government affairs manager. Gentlemen, I think your beliefs and positions regarding our natural resources align beautifully with Burgex’s purpose of advancing towards a sustainable future, and we’re honored to have you join us today.
Amanda Burgess: Thank you, Chris, for those introductions and thank you again to our panelists for being here with us and to all of our attendees as well. Attendees, if at any point during our conversation you have any questions, please enter them into that Q&A box. We will start our town hall with a summary from our panelists, followed up with a few questions about this proposed rule and its potential impacts, and then we will jump into your questions as time will allow. We only have an hour with our guests today, so I am going to go ahead and jump right in.
Question: Congressman Curtis, can you briefly explain for us this proposed rule from the BLM and the potential impacts it will have on the future of mineral exploration and the mining industry?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I can, and I’ve been thinking of whether or not I should do this, but I’m going to do it. I’m actually going to read from the BLM website here. It says, the proposed public lands rule would establish a framework to ensure healthy landscapes, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water, and balanced decision making on our nation’s public lands. And I guess my question is, if you’re not scared after reading that, I’m not sure that you fully understand what they’re doing.
And also, in the backdrop of what just happened in Arizona, which was President Biden came and declared a national monument around the Grand Canyon area. And what we’ve seen from this administration, and it’s not just this administration, it goes back decades, is a desire to use the executive branch to tie up large amounts of public lands for nothing, including recreation and grazing and also obviously extraction as well. And they have so many tools in their toolbox to do that, and the Antiquities Act is one of them. This is yet another tool.
It’s amazing to me that they even feel like they need this because they have so many tools. And this allows them, without congressional oversight, without appropriate input from the public, to unilaterally pick pieces of public lands and tie them up and make them off limits for all sorts of uses.
And then they say, well, why would you worry about that? We’re only trying to make sure that conservation is on an equal footing. And I would simply point to the Arizona monument, the Bears Ears monument, the Escalante monument, and it goes on and on and on about how this authority has been abused over and over and over again.
Amanda Burgess: Thank you. Thank you so much for that explanation. Mark, I would be really interested to hear what you might have to add to that.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Well, yeah, I mean, I think speaking directly to what Mr. Curtis said, number one, the rule is unnecessary because the BLM has the tools to protect landscapes and species and all that within their multiple use mandate. But to me, that’s what it really comes down to is through FLTMA, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act BLM has a multiple use mandate. And those mandates, those multiple uses are spelled out in FLTMA. Congress spelled out the multiple uses and conservation was not one of those.
Now, conservation is considered as you implement those multiple uses, but it is not a use, quote unquote, under FLTMA on equal footing. And so that to me, right off the bat, it’s the BLM really taking lawmaking into their own hands where that’s Congress’s purview.
Question: Congressman, I know you have been working a lot on helping us ensure that this proposed rule does not take effect. Can you explain to our guests what you’ve been doing?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I would love to, thank you. So going back to what both Mark and I have talked about and that is the role of Congress is that I’m trying to use a law to undo this rule. And that is a tool that Congress has. And so I have a bill in that would undo this rule. The bill has actually made it through the natural resources. And I hope to get a vote on the floor soon. And it’s a very, very important bill. It won’t surprise you that it has vast support for my Republican colleagues and vast pushback for my Democratic colleagues.
And let me just come back and here again, Mark and I are both like thinking of hammer this home is like, this is what was intended is that Congress would make these decisions. When we make these decisions, it can’t be rammed through by one party without consensus, without stakeholder input. And that’s the problem with these executive decisions is they lack the process that is so important before we move forward on these things. And so the bill is, like I say, it’s well received on half of Congress, but I’ve got quite a battle on the other half.
Amanda Burgess: Understandable. We’ve had a few more guests join us since we started. I’m just gonna throw out a quick reminder that if anyone has any questions they would like answered to please enter them into that Q&A box. And after we are finished summarizing with the Congressman and Mark Compton, we will get to as many of those questions as possible.
Question: Mark, I actually have the same question for you. Can you please tell us what AEMA is doing to help from letting this rule take effect?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Yeah, sure. So we’ve been really heavily focused on this rule since it was published this spring. And obviously we filed very detailed substantive comments as part of the formal public comment process. We have a very diverse membership in AEMA, all the way from individual exploration geologists up to some of the largest mining companies in the world and had a lot of great input from our members.
You know, in developing those comments, happy to share those with anybody, but we’ve also tried to broaden the opposition to the rule. And one of the ways we did that was in meeting with the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. The Office of Advocacy held a virtual meeting that was attended by several industry representatives who all expressed unanimous opposition to the rule. And then we followed that up with an in-person Washington, D.C. meeting with SBA. And ultimately, that led to SBA weighing in with BLM on the rule.
Number one, to say BLM is not taking into consideration the impacts to small businesses.
*disconnected from Mark briefly*
Question: Congressman, I was wondering, and I’m sure a lot of our guests were as well, how can we support your efforts? What can we be doing right now to make sure that this proposed rule does not take effect?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: A really, really important question. And thank you for asking it. I would love your help. And I’ve thought a little bit about this as I was thinking about this opportunity. If you think a minute about permitting reform right now, my Democratic colleagues are as anxious to reform, permitting reform as Republicans, because they’ve realized that their projects can’t move forward either.
And I think one of the things that you all could help me do with my Democratic colleagues is help them see how this is not only a problem for you and what you do, but it’s going to be a problem for their projects as well. Imagine if they want a solar farm or a wind farm and a large area has been blocked out by this rule. So I think what we can all be doing is educating other members of Congress, those who may be opposed to this, as to how this could be problematic for them as well.
And this rule implemented sounds pretty harmless, but go down the road a few years. And what happens if it’s blocked substantial areas where they would like renewable projects to go in? I think another important point that you can help me educate other lawmakers on is their agenda, and in many ways our agenda for the future, requires minerals that will come from these lands. We can’t get to their future without these minerals. And so what happens when we tie up these areas and make them off limits to these minerals?
There’s only one alternative for the United States, and that’s to go overseas. And we know that conditions overseas rarely are as good as they are here in the United States for environmental concerns, for human rights concerns, for OSHA concerns. And so they’re forcing us overseas and exasperating the problems that we’re trying to fight. So those are two really important points that we need to get out and make sure our colleagues understand.
In the hearing in Natural Resources, when we were considering this bill, one or two of my Democratic colleagues actually expressed concern about some of these as well. So I know that they are somewhat receptive to them. And the more that we can echo them and help them understand, look, this could be very problematic for you. It’s not just this industry or like-minded industries that are worried. It should be really everybody that should be worried about this rule.
Question: Congressman, can you tell me what the most effective mechanisms for getting our voice heard would be? Would it just be submitting comment to our representatives or do you have a more effective way we can?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: Well, I can just tell you my experience. When a constituent reaches out and leaves a comment in social media or sends me an email, that’s fine and it’s good, but it’s not nearly as impactful as a personal meeting with a constituent. And I would really push your representatives for a meeting. That very well, they may very well end up with staff and you shouldn’t worry about that. Staff is a very important way to communicate with your member of Congress. So to the extent that they can sit down, hopefully with a member and not the member, staff, and explain two things. One is how this impacts your industry.
Talk about the jobs and talk about all the good that comes from your industry that actually helps with their goals, the minerals and things that are needed, that helps with their goals. And then help them understand and educate them as to the other two points that I’ve talked about. But I’d go to the mat and just take the extra time to try to get a personal meeting. That can happen in two ways. Oftentimes people think it has to happen in Washington, DC, but every member of Congress has a staff in the district.
And sometimes that is actually a much easier meeting to get and sometimes even more impactful because all of our staffs in DC run from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting with constituents. And sometimes those district staffs have a little bit more bandwidth. And if you can get them interested, they’re also more tied in with the local impact. And so if you can share local impact, whether it be jobs and things like that, that district staff is probably gonna care a little bit more about that than the Washington, DC staff.
Amanda Burgess: Thank you so much. That was really helpful. I love all those suggestions that you just provided. Thank you. Mark, I’m so glad you were able to make it back with us.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Yeah, I don’t know what happened there. I just lost connection.
Amanda Burgess: That is all right. We were sad that you left us. You were right in the middle of telling us about AEMA’s efforts to prevent the rule from taking effect. If you would like to pick up where you left off, we are anxious to hear.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Sure. Well, yeah, so I was talking about the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and the help that they have been on this rule. After following our engagement with SBA, they did send a letter to BLM saying that BLM is required to do a regulatory flexibility analysis to determine the, or disclose the potential impacts on small businesses, to do an economic analysis because the rule certainly is gonna have an impact annually of more than $100 million.
BLM says it won’t, but BLM’s own report says that the multiple uses on our public lands generate $200 billion in activity each year. So, just looking at it very conservatively, when you look at the expanded use of areas of critical environmental concern, or ACECs, or this novel concept of conservation leases, if you just say, okay, well, those impacts are gonna have a 1% impact on the economy, that’s $200 million a year. So, or excuse me, $2 billion a year.
So, it’s absurd to say that this rule does not have a significant economic impact and BLM ignoring that is just egregious. So, the SBA’s Office of Advocacy outlined this in their letter to BLM, but they went even further and it’s really surprised me, but SBA actually called into question BLM statutory authority for this rule and elevating use to be on equal footing because that authority simply is not there in Flipper. And of course, I heard the Congressman talk about his bill. Congressional advocacy has been a big part of this.
For AEMA, we obviously strongly support the Congressman’s bill to block this rule. We also, we’ve submitted a statement for the record for the hearing on that bill, as well for an oversight subcommittee hearing on public land access in which we really focused on this BLM rule as one of the aspects of our letter. And then, as much as we would like to see the Congressman’s bill pass, we also understand as he pointed out, he has half of Congress in support.
So we are also backing an appropriation strategy to prohibit funds from being used to finalize the rule. That has been included in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee, and now we’ve got our work cut out for us to make sure that that stays in and gets included in any future conference with the Senate. And I think that’s something that folks taking part today can really weigh in with their members of Congress and their senators to make sure that that happens.
We also have tried to engage governors on this rule. We specifically were targeting the Western Governors Association. Obviously, there are some governors within that association throughout the West who are supportive of the rule. So WGA has not come out specifically in opposition, but that did generate an opposition letter from six Western governors.
We’ve also been coordinating with various other industries, and to the Congressman’s point, not just like-minded industries like oil and gas, but we had a lot of conversation with the solar industry about this rule, and they are actually just as opposed to it as we are. We talked about doing coalition comments with them and ultimately determined that having an opposition letter from the solar industry alone would be more impactful than joining with the mining industry, so we didn’t do a joint letter, but certainly coordinated our talking points with them.
And then finally, I’d say we are prepared ultimately if there gets to be a litigation phase of this rule. I think, again, BLM has gone beyond their statutory authority here, but SBA, I think, really set us up with the regulatory flexibility analysis and that not being done as a potential point of litigation.
The fact that the BLM did not conduct an environmental impact statement to disclose the socioeconomic impacts of this rule, as well as the environmental impacts of not developing these mineral resources. So I think there’s lots of ground for a lawsuit as well, if it comes to that.
Amanda Burgess: Let’s hope it doesn’t, right?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: I’d love to see BLM withdraw the rule, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to do that.
Question: We asked the Congressman earlier, and he gave us some great information about how we could get involved in supporting Congress’s efforts. I think you briefly touched on it. Could you tell our attendees today how we could get involved in support AEMA’s efforts? There’s quite a bit you’ve been working on to prevent this, and I would love to know what we could be doing to be supportive.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Well, yeah. I mean, so number one, and this is going to sound self-serving, but join AEMA. I mean, there’s obviously strength in numbers. And when we’re able to go back to DC, and we’re there as an organization, we are there at least once a month. We’re not DC-based. And I think that also gives us some credibility, gives us some street cred with members of Congress, so to speak. But there is power in numbers.
And when we’re able to go back there and say, we represent 1,400 members from a very diverse aspect of the mining industry, like I said, all the way from exploration geologists to large producing mining companies, we have the word exploration in our name for a reason. That’s because so much of our membership is that exploration and development sector of the industry that we’re able to represent on a national basis. But, you know, it…
Obviously, being part of our efforts in writing comments on regulatory proposals such as this, but also writing your own regulatory proposals, or comments on regulatory proposals, and telling your story specifically, I think makes a big difference. The AMA’s comments are industry-wide, and I think it’s very helpful sometimes if individual projects or companies can talk about the impacts to them specifically, to issues like this, and really just helping us tell mining’s story. Part of that is through electronic media these days. Social media is huge.
We take it, as an organization, we take it very seriously. Ken O’Neill, our communications and outreach manager, does a great job of getting positive messages out there about mining.
Follow us. Share our content. Share your content with us, so we can help amplify those messages as well. I tell you, we have an opportunity in this industry right now that I don’t think we’ve had in a long, long time. There is more bipartisan support for domestic mining than I think there has been in a long time. There’s a recognition of the need for domestic mining. I think it’s important for people to understand what today’s mining industry is about. I think we’ve got the acknowledgement that we need mining.
I don’t think we’ve gotten to the point where we still have so many people that think mining is a necessary evil, and we’ve got to get beyond that perception.
Amanda Burgess: Totally agree. I’m sure you’ve been chatting with Chris Summers. We have a strong vision for a common-sense, sustainable future to get to that point. I love all the things you said about how we can get involved in getting there and prevent this rule from taking effect. Thank you both for all of the information that you’ve provided and all of those important tips for how we can get involved. I’m going to go ahead and jump to the question and answer box. We have a question from Robert Schaeffer.
Question: We have recently seen the opposite problem, pulling land promoted by developers out of the Greenbelt in Ontario, Canada. Is this happening more globally or a truly North American issue with executive power to push through changes without consultation to the interest parties? Congressman, you might have more insight into this, if you would like to share.
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I can’t pretend to be an expert on outside of the United States. I can tell you, I think nature of government is for government to take power away from the people, and nature of the executive branch is for the executive branch to take power away from the legislative branch. In the United States, the way that our founders established that power is that it’s difficult for Congress to pass legislation. That was intended.
The executive branch, we’ve seen this current executive branch move all over the place with executive orders, everything from the student loans, it’s all over the place. Much of it is challenged in the courts of law, as Mark mentioned, this will be if it moves forward. But in the meantime, it’s just wrecks destruction in its path and uncertainty. And it’s not just your industry. I was with the cattlemen yesterday out in the part of my district, and they are very, very concerned about this. And the recreation industry should be concerned about this.
So I can’t really speak too much outside of our borders. But I can just tell you, I think that’s human nature. And I think you’re going to see that anywhere you have a democracy.
Question: Mark, do you have anything you’d like to add to that comment?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Well, I do think that you are seeing nations globally that are, you know, they’re recognizing the skyrocketing mineral demand. And I think there’s a varying degree to how much nations are prioritizing their own mineral resource development. And that’s one of the frustrating things for us that we see here in the U.S. is we’re talking a great game when it comes to developing our own resources. But, you know, particularly from the current administration, I’m afraid most of the actions that we see on the ground are actually decidedly anti-mining.
And there seems to be more of a focus on securing our mineral needs from foreign countries than there are in developing our own and gaining the economic and community benefits that a mining operation could bring. So that’s been a frustrating thing for us.
Question: Douglas Peters asks, is there any requirement in the new BLM rule for conservation to have a financial cost associated with it? Grazing has costs, exploration and mining has costs, timbering has costs. Is there any hard financial benefit to the government and public, not just the good feelings, for putting areas into conservation only?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Well, I don’t think there is anything specific that puts a cost on conservation in this rule. They are talking about developing, you know, putting a value on nature to use in NEPA analyses moving forward. But, yeah, I mean, the scary thing for me is with things like a conservation lease, you know, they say, well, this is just temporary. It’s going to be for 10 years or whatever the time period. And, you know, once the lease is over, then, you know, it’s open to other multiple uses.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: But, you know, any future use has to be compatible with the purpose of the conservation lease. And Tracy Stone Manning, BLM’s director, stated flat out in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing back in May that energy development and mining would likely not be compatible with the purpose of a conservation lease. So, anything that goes into a conservation lease then is a really a de facto mineral withdrawal, you know, in perpetuity.
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: Yeah, I would just add to that. They may say it’s 10 years temporary. And to them, 10 years is temporary. That seems like a long time to me. But you named me one land designation that has gone into place that was removed. And we all know it goes just the opposite direction. It just moves more and more restrictive. I don’t know of any land designation that’s ever been pulled back.
Question: Congressman Nick Proctor would like to know, are amendments to the Antiquities Act within the purview of Congress, like putting a maximum number of acres per national monument creation? Is that something on the table?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: So, they are in the purview of Congress. And it is something, particularly here in my state, we talk about all the time. Imagine this, a large percentage of my district is over 90% federally owned. I’ll just get your arms around that for a minute. Imagine being a city or town or county and trying to run that county when 90% of your property doesn’t pay property tax. And sure, it gets payment in lieu of taxes, but it’s a fraction of what property tax would be.
Imagine trying to run a county when the federal government can tell you over 90% of the land, what you can do with it and what you can’t do with it. It’s a terrible thing. So, we’ve confronted this in Utah for a very, very long time. And we have pushed back on Antiquities Act. You would find every single member of the delegation in Utah voting in support of a total repeal of the Antiquities Act. We’ve had bills before that limit the number of acres. The founders clearly didn’t intend.
For a president to set aside millions of acres with a single designation. It’s clearly outside the intention of the Antiquities Act. And so I would say, yes, it is within our responsibilities. Yes, there is legislation pending and legislation that will move forward, but we have really struggled trying to get it across the finish line. I hate to admit this, but even some of my Republican colleagues won’t support it. And not any of those Republican colleagues, by the way, come from a Western state that’s 90% federal lands. They don’t really grasp it.
A lot of these, a lot of my representatives say, oh, I have federal lands, and they point to a park of 100 acres, right? And so they’re just not concerned, right, about this. And they don’t have the ability for the executive to tie up a million acres with a signature of a pen. So yes, we’re on it. Many members of my delegation have made repeated attempts to limit this, the Antiquities Act and other executive actions.
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: But in my district, we have Bears Ears, and this is a fight that I’ve fought, and my staff and I have spent massive amounts of time on trying to put this in perspective and take it away from the executive branch, and so far have been unsuccessful.
Amanda Burgess: Well, being a Utah Salt Lake City-based company ourselves, we certainly appreciate your efforts in that way, and we will continue to cross our fingers that they are successful. And continue moving with questions and remind our participants again, if you have a question, just please enter it in that Q&A box.
Question: Russell Taylor would like to know, is it not counterintuitive to remove minerals that pay royalties and also fight so hard over budgets? No individuals are taxed here, and money is generated from the land for budgets. Would this budget issue help others reach across the aisle?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: Well, I can just give you Congress’s perspective. Unfortunately, across the aisle, there seems to be no care at all for budget and for spending or for finding revenue for the budget. They’re driven by these goals that in many cases are perhaps unrealistic, but also their method of obtaining them is even more unrealistic. And there’s no better example than this. If your goal is to move to a lot of technology that they like that reduces carbon, they need this extraction. They have to have it.
And so you can see how even amongst themselves, they cross purposes and are conflicted about this, but yet they always put this overarching goal out ahead of all these other issues and are not usually very willing to talk about the practicality of why these minerals are needed to meet their own stated goals.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: And Amanda, I would just add to that. So for a lot of minerals, there are paying royalties. Obviously hard rock locatable minerals do not located under the mining law of 1872. But one of the reasons that the mining law and our claim location system has worked so well is it incentivizes private investment to explore, pour and develop our nation’s mineral resources so that the government, i.e the taxpayers don’t have to I mean, just imagine what it would, the millions and billions of dollars that it takes to locate and define a hard rock mineral deposit.
If the government had to do that, taxpayers had to do that, we’d have a lot worse budget situation than we currently have.
Amanda Burgess: Right, I think that’s a really good point that you made there, Mark.
Question: We have a member or an attendee who would like to know if this proposed rule also applies to US Forest Service lands. Mark, do you have any information on that?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Well, so it does not. This is a BLM specific rule. However, I would point out that the Forest Service recently issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. So it’s not yet a proposed rule, but we submitted some comments on that. It’s an ANPR on climate, we’re dealing with climate resilience. And as you read this advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, it sounds eerily similar to this BLM rule. So I think we’re ultimately going to see a Forest Service rule in the same vein.
Question: We have another attendee who would like to know, Congressman, how does the Biden administration plan to reduce our reliance on foreign mineral resources? Is not the expansion of mineral exploration and extraction in the United States the only means to increase our domestic production? It is massively hypocritical for the administration to restrict, withdraw vast tracts of public land and hold up permitting efforts, yet expect our national mineral production to increase.
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I think we would all agree with that sentiment, but I would like to know, does the Biden administration plan to reduce our reliance on foreign mineral resources like they’ve said?
I can’t see a single indication that they do. And I love the word hypocritical. Imagine how it feels. We have a lot of oil and gas in my district. Imagine how it feels to these people to have oil and gas shut down in the United States and see the president plead, beg with Iran, Venezuela, other countries who are not friendly to us to produce more. It justifies logic. And it’s not only that, it’s wrong. It’s wrong for a number of reasons. And if nothing else, we do it better. We do it cleaner. We do it more responsibly than anywhere else in the world.
Why, if we want these minerals, somehow we have this ability to ignore the conditions overseas and ignore the human rights, ignore the OSHA standards, ignore all the regulations that we put on U.S. businesses, and we ignore when that’s done overseas, and we don’t mind using those products. As a matter of fact, we ask for more of them, and then we shut it down here. And there is no better word than hypocritical.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: So Amanda, if I could just add to that, you know, I mentioned earlier, we’ve seen so many actions from the administration have been decidedly anti-mining. But I think in answer to this question specifically, I think the proof will be in the pudding very soon because we anticipate a report from the administration’s interagency working group on mining regulations, laws, and permitting very soon. And this group was formed as a result of the President’s America Supply Chain’s executive order that he issued right after coming into office and it’s ostensibly to come up with a plan for responsibly developing our domestic mineral resources.
And they’re looking at, this working group is looking at a very broad, you know, a broad view of the mining industry. Everything from, you know, the mining law itself, to royalties, to whether land should be off limits, to mining standards, to our claim location system versus leasing, all kinds of issues that they are, they’re looking at tribal issues.
So I think when this report comes out, I think that’s going to give a very clear indication of just how serious they are about actually developing domestic mineral resources.
Amanda Burgess: Do you have an anticipated date of when we might see that report?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Boy, I wish I did. It was actually due in November of last year. Specifically the permitting aspect of it that Congress mandated in the bipartisan infrastructure law, they mandated a permitting report from the administration from Interior and Ag by November of last year. We were told late winter, early spring, that it was a matter of weeks, not months.
It’s now been a matter of months. We thought it was going to come out a week or two ago. We still haven’t seen it. But I’m OK with that report not coming out, because honestly, I don’t believe we are going to like a whole lot of what’s in there.
Amanda Burgess: I think a lot of our attendees, and I know a lot of our Burgex clients, too, agree with that sentiment. I don’t think we’ll find things that we like in there. Are you planning to share the results of that report with your members once you have received it, or once it comes out?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Oh, absolutely. And one thing, when this working group put out a request for information about a year and a half ago, and with the help of our diverse membership, we submitted, I can’t even tell you how many pages of comments. It was well over 100. And I’m, again, happy to share those with anybody in the meeting that would like to read them, because I think they do a really good job of covering and explaining the industry’s perspective on virtually every major issue facing the industry today.
But we have really engaged closely and in good faith with the administration throughout this process. I mean, this is a whole-of-government approach. Virtually every federal agency is involved in it. We’ve met with every one of them. We’ve had really constructive and productive conversations and dialogue with these agencies. And I think that there truly are people in the administration who get it, who understand the need for more domestic mineral production and support that. But there obviously are those who do not.
And I think my personal belief is one of the reasons we haven’t seen that report yet is because of that internal struggle within the administration. So we’ll see when the report comes out. We’ll see the result of that internal tension and struggle and see if there is a balance there or if one side or the other prevailed.
But our engagement with the administration with that is not going to end with the report. Regardless of the results of it with the recommendations that are included we will continue to engage in a good faith manner.
Question: Nick Proctor would like to know, if the rule passes, can the judicial branch get involved to block it? Can district courts or the Supreme Court review the constitutionality of the order?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I’ll just wait. I am not a legal expert. My understanding is somebody has to bring the lawsuit. And we’ve seen that with other executive action. And I’d be stunned if somebody didn’t bring the lawsuit in this case. And the unfortunate thing is, even if they’re eventually successful, the amount of money and the time that that takes is really unfortunate.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Yeah, I would say, Congressman, there will be people lining up to file suit on this.
Question: John Pierre Jutras would like to know, it has been somewhat difficult to get details on this rule. Are there estimates on timelines with regards to this passing and being implemented, assuming efforts to stop it fail?
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: Well, I know that the BLM’s target is to get this finalized by late winter, early spring. And it’s not a coincidence that that’s their timing. They are trying to get it finalized before the Congressional Review Act period would kick in. Any rule finalized within the last six months of an administration is subject to a Congressional Review Act proposal or bill resolution from the next Congress. And so their goal certainly will be to get this finalized by, say, the March time frame.
And just speaking of that, well, just speaking of that Congressional Review Act, that’s another, it just brings to mind another aspect of this rule that is unlawful, is so much of it reads like BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule that they put forth in the, well, 2016, 2015, 2016 timeframe that was subject to a Congressional Review Act resolution that passed and was signed by President Trump. When something is rejected through the CRA, the agency is forbidden from promulgating anything substantially similar.
And so, this really is the Planning 2.0 under the guise of dealing with climate change. And so, just on that alone, BLM should not be able to do it.
Question: Robert Schaefer would like to know, based on your response, Congressman, shouldn’t the BLM get caught up on claim adjudication before they try to take on additional responsibilities or projects? Twelve months plus does not help a business operate while they are just waiting. Thank you, Robert Schaefer, for that question. We feel this very deeply on our end as well. What would you like to say about that, Congressman?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: Well, I think the answer is, you know, obviously, they should, yes. But this is, the problem with executive actions is there’s just so little accountability. And there’s almost zero accountability until the lawsuit that forces their hand. But in the meantime, they can wreak all sorts of havoc. And I’m sure this bill will, even if it’s challenged, as it will be. And even if it’s overturned, as I believe it will be, the destruction that it will leave in its path is really unfortunate.
Question: Bill Schneiders asks, we see a lot of stories about this administration funding exploration and mining projects outside of the U.S. Is there a way for Congress to block these funds from leaving the U.S.? And do you have any idea of the total amount of exported federal funds?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I don’t have any idea. That is actually a good idea. Mark mentioned that another strategy is to block this rule from, and the appropriation side. And perhaps those projects could also be blocked. I would welcome if anybody had any details of those to get that to my office. I’m happy to take a look at the specifics of that. If they could bring some of those cases to light to me, I’ll be happy to take a look at them.
Mark Compton, AEMA Executive Director: And if I could just add to that, you know, I think we, obviously we want to see domestic production prioritized. We need to, we need to utilize our own resources to the extent that we responsibly can. But our global mineral demand and the U.S.’s mineral demand is going to require us to get resources from other countries as well. And, you know, hopefully those are our allies. So I don’t necessarily have an issue with providing funding for exploration and mineral development in other countries, but not at the expense of doing it here at home. It needs to be in addition to, not in lieu of.
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: It kind of goes to that hypocritical comment a little bit earlier.
Amanda Burgess: Yeah, I think that one hit home for a lot of us. I am going to take one more question before we close out.
Question: Katie Harmon says, Congressman Curtis, I’ve heard about the work you’ve done in establishing the Republican Climate Caucus. What are some of the proactive approaches that the caucus is working towards for supporting and protecting United States-based mineral extraction?
U.S. Congressman John Curtis: I love the question. It gives me a chance to brag about the caucus. Look, it’s no secret that over the years, Republicans have not engaged in the climate debate. And I think that’s ultimately been a huge mistake for us. It just means there’s one voice at the table and they get to do anything they want. And we’ve been off kind of quietly shouting, you’re crazy. And then yet to the rest of the world, we sound crazy. And so we’re trying to get Republicans to engage, not on the issue of science, but on the issue of practicality.
And we are absolutely confident, and this is our message, is we can do this here at home. We can provide energy resources, we can provide extraction resources, and we can do it cleaner and better than anywhere else in the world. So if you’re worried about climate.
And this rule is a perfect example. Mark’s alluded to a couple of times, this is the Biden’s administration climate plan. Well, for crying out loud, who’s shouting from the rooftops? This is anti-climate, right? It’s instead of pulling these minerals out here in the United States where we do it better than anybody else, cleaner than anybody else in the United States, we’re willing to do it other places.
So the mission of the caucus is to get Republicans, number one, comfortable talking about climate, and number two, on the offensive, spreading the message that we know how to do it better and cleaner than anyone else in the world. So if you care about emissions, if you care about climate, you need to be protecting these things here at home and making sure that we have the controls over them that we have here. I’m pleased that the caucus is now one of the largest in Washington, DC. It represents 85 members of Congress.
That’s a third of all house members of Congress who are part of this. And we’re getting more bold and more aggressive in our messaging.
Amanda Burgess: That’s very cool. Thank you, Congressman. I am going to go ahead and wrap up our session for today to respect both of your times. I just want to personally, and behalf on all of our attendees, thank you both again for your time with us. You’ve provided so much valuable insight into what’s happening, and you’ve given us so much great information on what we can do to be involved. I wrote down a few things. I’m just going to reiterate for our attendees. Please consider an AEMA membership if you have not already joined.
Mark, you’ve outlined for us so many wonderful efforts that you’re taking to be on the defense here, and we appreciate that. Congressman, thank you for your suggestion to get with your representatives. Personally, if you can on a local level, please spread your stories about how this proposed rule affects you personally and our industry as well. Thank you so much for those suggestions. Please don’t be afraid to educate your congressmen as well, especially the opposition to this rule on what we could see happen if it goes through.
As we wrap up, I want to let all of our attendees know that you will get a link to this meeting if you have any colleagues or anyone else that were not able to attend today. Please feel free to share this link with them. That will also help spread the word about what’s happening and how we can be involved. And then also, we are going to put up on the screen our Burgex’s contact information. If you have any questions or comments about today’s session, please feel free to reach out to us. We would love to hear them.
Again, please all be involved to strengthen our voice and work together to help prevent this proposed rule from taking effect. Congressman and Mark Compton, thank you so much for joining us today. And thank you, attendees.