Ex-Interior official: Permitting woes pose ‘massive problem’ for climate

By Hannah Northey | 06/18/2024 04:15 PM EDT

Tommy Beaudreau, who left his post as Interior’s No. 2 in the fall, pointed to the nation’s 152-year-old mining law as an obstacle to permitting and growth.

Tommy Beaudreau at his confirmation hearing.

Former Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau during his 2021 confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The nation’s 152-year-old mining law is blocking meaningful input from tribes and nearby communities, fueling long permitting timelines and triggering litigation that’s undermining the nation’s ability to produce raw materials needed to tackle climate change, according to a top former Interior Department official.

Tommy Beaudreau, who left his post as the agency’s No. 2 last fall, said in an interview in the Brunswick Review — a publication that the consultancy firm Brunswick Group producesthat Congress needs to pass reforms to the 1872 mining law, but acknowledged that doing so is difficult and rife with conflict.

As it stands, Beaudreau said permitting hard rock mines in the U.S. isn’t inclusive and doesn’t focus enough on how — or if — nearby communities and tribes actually benefit from new mining projects.


“It’s a massive problem,” said Beaudreau, who led the Biden administration’s work to overhaul permitting of projects aimed at digging up lithium, nickel, cobalt and zinc needed to make everything from electric vehicle batteries to renewables and defense equipment. “And the fundamental reason for it is that the law that governs how mining operations are approved in this country dates back to the 19th century,” he continued. “It was a prospecting statute from the Ulysses Grant administration trying to encourage westward expansion and to provide economic opportunity to new states out west.”