* At the end of February, the Secretary of the Interior presented a draft list – for public comment – of 35 “critical minerals,” defined as essential to the economic and national security of the United States. The list drew many comments, focusing on a range of issues: “Children are mining Rare Earth Elements for Electric Cars, while Electric car companies are mining government subsidies for the rich that can afford the $90,000 price tag for a new model. While Americas poor are put out of jobs from regulations.” Hmmmm…. Is that true? It was sent in by one of many people named Anonymous Anonymous. Another group said the list is too short: “Placing limits on this list, due to over-zealous environmental policies, completely undermines the 1872 Mining Laws and the wisdom of some extremely important Presidents that saved this Nation over the course of History.” That’s from the Materials and Mining Advisory Council, based in Nashville, TN. Is it worth noting that the Council sent its comments via fax? Not sure when Interior’s list will be finalized.
* The US House Committee on Energy & Commerce sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt regarding EPA reorganization plans, particularly pertaining to workforce analysis. The letter writes that “EPA has struggled for decades to determine whether the workforce at the agency has the appropriate skills and competencies to accomplish its mission.” The Committee notes that EPA has not conducted a workforce analysis in over 20 years and the letter further references a 2012 EPA Office of Inspector General report on the need to improve workload analysis. The Committee notes that some reorganization is already occurring: certain offices have been combined and over 1000 employees have accepted buyouts. The Committee wants a briefing by EPA’s Chief of Operations “and other relevant personnel.” The deadline to set this meeting is March 27.
* Here’s a topic for careful review – very careful review: DOT published an RFI last week seeking insights on the autonomous transport of hazardous materials, both for trucks/highways and railroads. DOT writes that “Automated Driving Systems’’ (ADS) have shown the capacity to “drive and operate motor vehicles, including commercial motor vehicles, as safely and efficiently as humans, if not more so. Similar technological developments are also occurring in rail.” The RFI poses eleven core questions, which reference safety, of course, but also ask about systems under development, regulatory conflicts and integrating possible new rules with existing hazmat regulations. This could be one reset for difficult pipeline issues in New England: upcoming applications to ship in LNG via driverless trucks! Comments are due by May 7. Stay tuned…