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H.R. 761 (113th): National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

9/18/2013--Passed House amended. National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013 - Title I: Development of Domestic Sources of Strategic and Critical Minerals - (Sec. 101) Deems a domestic mine that will provide strategic and critical minerals to be an "infrastructure project" as described in Presidential Order "Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects" dated March 22, 2012.

(Sec. 102) Sets forth the responsibilities of the lead agency (federal, state, local, tribal, or Alaska Native Corporation) with responsibility for issuing a mineral exploration or mine permit with respect to project coordination, agency consultation, project proponents, contractors, and the status and scope of any environmental impact statement.

Requires the lead agency to determine that any action to approve an exploration or mine permit does not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) if the procedural and substantive safeguards of the lead agency's permitting process alone, any applicable state permitting process alone, or a combination of the two processes together provide an adequate mechanism to ensure that environmental factors are taken into account.

Requires the lead agency's project lead, upon request of a project proponent, to enter into an agreement with the project proponent and other cooperating agencies that sets time limits for each part of the permitting process.

Applies this Act to a mineral exploration or mine permit for which an application was submitted before enactment of this Act if the applicant so requests in writing. Requires the lead agency to begin implementing this Act with respect to such application within 30 days after receiving such request.

Requires the lead agency, with respect to strategic and critical minerals within a federally administered unit of the National Forest System, to: (1) exempt from federal regulations governing Special Areas all areas of identified mineral resources in Land Use Designations (other than Non-Development Land Use Designations); (2) apply such exemption to all additional routes and areas that the agency finds necessary to facilitate the construction, operation, maintenance, and restoration of the areas of the identified mineral resources; and (3) continue to apply such exemptions after approval of the Minerals Plan of Operations for the unit.

(Sec. 103) Declares that the priority of the lead agency is to maximize mineral resource development while mitigating environmental impacts, so that more of the mineral resource can be brought to the market place.

(Sec. 104) Prescribes the Federal Register notice process for mineral exploration and mining projects.

Title II: Judicial Review of Agency Actions Relating to Exploration and Mine Permits - (Sec. 202) Bars a civil action claiming legal wrong caused by an agency action unless it is filed by the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the final federal agency action to which it relates.

(Sec. 203) Authorizes the holder of a mineral exploration or mine permit to intervene as of right in any covered civil action by a person affecting rights or obligations of the permit holder under the permit.

(Sec. 204) Requires the court to hear and determine any covered civil action as expeditiously as possible.

(Sec. 205) Prohibits the court, in a covered civil action, from granting or approving prospective relief unless it finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of a legal requirement, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct such violation.

(Sec. 206) Declares inapplicable to such civil action specified requirements of the Equal Access to Justice Act relating to award of costs and fees to a prevailing plaintiff.

Prohibits payment from the federal government for court costs of a party in such a civil action, including attorneys' fees and expenses.

Title III: Miscellaneous Provisions - (Sec. 301) Prohibits the construction of this Act as affecting any aspect of Secretarial Order 3324, issued by the Secretary of the Interior on December 3, 2012, regarding potash, oil, and gas leasing and development within the Designated Potash Area in Eddy and Lea Counties, New Mexico.