Senators Call Out DOI, USDA Failure to Produce Permitting Report Required by Infrastructure Law

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) this week led a letter to the Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), questioning whether they would produce a report outlining options to improve the federal mineral permitting process on the timeframe required by federal law. Under Section 40206 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Departments were required to complete the report within one year of enactment—which is today—but have failed to adhere to that statutory deadline.

U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), James Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) also signed the letter.

The Senators wrote, in part:

“As you may know, Section 40206 requires the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, acting through the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, to improve the quality and timeliness of the federal permitting and review process for critical mineral production on certain federal lands.

“The section lays out nine ways to improve permitting [and] establishes a deadline of one year from enactment for your Departments to issue a new report that identifies additional regulatory and legislative measures that would increase the timeliness of permitting, ensure adequate staffing for the timely consideration of authorizations on federal land, and quantify the period of time required to complete each step of the permitting process.

“The nine improvement priorities and the report are the basis of a new performance metric required under Section 40206 to meet the permitting and review process improvements it requires and will serve as the basis of new annual reporting to Congress to accompany the President’s budget.

“These are serious and substantial requirements that represent a first step to address serious deficiencies in the federal permitting process. Yet DOI and USDA have outwardly paid little attention to them, and internally appear to have devoted critical resources to discretionary projects that trace back to Executive Orders, rather than legally binding federal statutes…

“As our mineral security and foreign mineral dependence become more important at a time of rising global demand, Congress remains focused on a variety of means to encourage new domestic production.”

To read the full letter, click here.


Section 40206 of the bipartisan infrastructure law is drawn from the American Mineral Security Act, which Murkowski sponsored and Sullivan, Risch, Crapo, and Cramer all cosponsored.

Rather than focusing on the statutory requirement to complete the permitting report and associated work, DOI and USDA have instead prioritized a discretionary Interagency Working Group that has pursued mining law reform, especially new royalties and fees that would raise the costs of hardrock mining and limit domestic supply.

Murkowski’s letter follows a series of letters she and Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) sent to multiple departments and agencies in May 2022, questioning their failure to implement several critical mineral mandates from the Energy Act of 2020.

It also follows Biden administration-led setbacks and delays for a number of key mining projects across the country, including the Ambler Access Road in northwest Alaska.



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