The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015, by a vote of 254-177 on Oct. 22. Sand, gravel and minerals necessary for transportation infrastructure construction were included in the definition of strategic and critical minerals, despite the efforts of some lawmakers to delete them from the bill.

Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., the bill is designed to expedite the permitting to produce domestic sources of minerals of strategic and critical importance to national security and economic and manufacturing competitiveness.

NSSGA wrote to all House members prior to consideration of the bill and strongly urged them to vote down an amendment from Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., to strip sand and gravel from the bill. The amendment failed on a vote of 176-253. NSSGA noted to lawmakers that when natural disasters like 2012 Superstorm Sandy or a major earthquake strike, transportation infrastructure must be rebuilt quickly. Easy access to aggregates is critical to repairing and building infrastructure.

“We are pleased that the House has once again passed legislation that recognizes aggregates are essential to transportation infrastructure, particularly in times of natural disaster,” said Pam Whitted, NSSGA senior vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs. “Actions to further restrict development of these essential construction materials threatens stable supplies of them.”

U.S. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has introduced a Senate version of the legislation, S. 883, The American Mineral Security Act of 2015. The bill would establish a tool to identify critical mineral market factors in order to avoid supply shortages. It also calls upon U.S. Geological Survey director to develop a methodology for determining which minerals qualify as critical minerals, and review the minerals every two years. It is uncertain when the committee would markup the bill.