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Spokane/East. Wash/North Idaho News Releases for Fri. Jul. 3 - 3:36 pm
Wed. 07/01/20
ICYMI: Critical Minerals: Securing America's Future Op-Ed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Casey Hammond
Bureau of Land Management Ore. & Wash. - 07/01/20 3:27 PM

WASHINGTON – One year ago, the Trump Administration released a strategic plan through the Departments of Commerce and the Interior designed to ensure the nation has a secure and reliable supply of critical minerals necessary for our economic and national security. In the year since, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management have worked with partner agencies to identify prospective areas for critical mineral deposits on public lands, and to accelerate review and approval of critical mineral exploration and development projects.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond highlighted some of the successes and milestones achieved over the past year in an op-ed published last week in the Elko, Nevada Daily Free Press. These include the approval of multiple critical minerals mining projects, and the expansion of many other operations. The full article is below.

Critical Minerals: Securing America’s Future

At no other time in recent memory has the United States needed to invest domestically and be less dependent on foreign products and natural resources. America’s manufacturing and technology sectors are among the highest-paying and fastest growing in the country, and their raw materials could and should be sourced from the United States by American workers. The impacts to consumers and the nation’s economy from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus illustrates the need for domestic production of critical minerals.

In response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, the Department of the Interior established a list of 35 minerals essential to the economic and national security of the United States. The list includes rare earth elements and other metals such as lithium, indium, tellurium, gallium, and platinum group elements. They are used in the smartphones in our pockets, the cars we drive, the computers and televisions we rely on for work and entertainment, alloys for the aerospace and defense industries, integrated circuits and optical devices, medical imaging and research, and hundreds of other applications.

In 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the total value of critical mineral resources produced to be $82.2 billion. Our nation is a major exporter of some of these minerals, however we rely on other countries for more than 50 percent of most of the minerals that are vital to our economy and security. In fact, the United States relies on imports to meet 50 percent or more of the domestic demand for 31 of the 35 designated critical minerals. We have no domestic production and rely completely on imports to supply the nation’s demand for 14 of those critical minerals, including rare earth minerals, manganese, and cesium – all vital for technology manufacturing and dozens of other applications. In 1984, this total was 11. Today, China dominates the market and supplies the largest number of critical minerals to the United States.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and the Department of the Interior have been working to ensure the Nation has a reliable supply of critical minerals necessary for our economic prosperity and national security by identifying areas for discovery of new deposits of these minerals and accelerate their possible development on public lands. Other agencies are advancing research and development into recycling and reprocessing technologies for critical minerals, as well as enhancing the nation’s workforce and downstream manufacturing capabilities.

We are one of the few nations who will smartly and efficiently develop these resources responsibly and limit the environmental impact. We’ve made it a priority to streamline the review and approval of critical minerals development projects on BLM managed lands including:

  • Approving the Panamint Valley Lithium Exploration Project in Inyo County, California, which is drilling exploratory wells to locate lithium deposits last August.
  • Releasing the analysis of the proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in Nevada in the next few weeks, which if approved, would employ over 300 employees and contribute approximately $145 million in combined tax revenues.

Full production capacity for the Thacker Pass mine is projected to be 60,000 metric tons per year – which, at current levels, would represent nearly 44 percent of global lithium production and become the second largest lithium project in the world. Global demand for lithium is skyrocketing due to its importance in high-capacity batteries for electric cars, laptops, smartphones and other products. As of now, almost 96 percent of production is concentrated in just four countries: Australia, Chile, Argentina and China.

  • Holding a virtual public meeting to discuss the development of an environmental analysis for a proposed dolomite quarry mine in Luna County, New Mexico. Dolomite, a form of Magnesium, is used for multiple applications, including in the construction, metal processing, and chemical industries, and as an ingredient in the production of glass, bricks, and ceramics.
  • Approving the expansion of the Lost Creek uranium in-situ recovery project in Sweetwater County, Wyoming in March. The decision allows the mine to expand uranium recovery into the next deeper layer of minerals and onto 5,751 additional surface acres ,for a total project area of 10,005 acres, enabling the company to expand operations and sustain employment for an additional six to eight years, until around 2032.

Through these projects and many others, we continue to champion investment in American industry and infrastructure, by encouraging innovation and responsible multiple use of our public lands. Projects like these underpin our nation’s strong and diverse minerals and energy portfolios, and their benefits will multiply as this Administration encourages new development of our natural resources to embolden American economic growth and national security.

Ending our dependence upon foreign sources for critical minerals will make America safer, more secure, and more prosperous in the years ahead. We are proud to help lead the way.

Casey Hammond is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management.


The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

Follow the BLM on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr @BLMNational

Bureau of Land Management Officials move to reduce wildfires
Bureau of Land Management Ore. & Wash. - 07/01/20 11:29 AM

Portland, Ore. – Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials have updated the 2020 prohibitions regarding the use of fire-causing materials on BLM lands to include the prohibition of using metal targets throughout Oregon and Washington. This is in addition to the original prohibition of using fireworks, exploding targets, and tracer or incendiary devices. The prohibition is effective May 10, 2020, until October 31, 2020.

“We need everyone to take an active role in preventing human-caused wildfires this year since the Pacific Northwest is predicted to have an extremely dry summer. To prevent these fires, we all have to follow these prohibitions,” said Barry Bushue, State Director, BLM Oregon/Washington.

BLM Officials recommend the following fire safety precautions for recreational target shooting:

  • Avoid target shooting on days with hot, dry, and/or windy conditions.
  • Ensure target areas are clear of dry grass, vegetation, and rocks for at least 20 feet around the target.
  • Have a proper backstop.
  • Bring water, a fire extinguisher, and a shovel.
  • Do not use prohibited items:  metal targets, tracer or incendiary devices, and exploding targets.

For updated information on public use restrictions on BLM OR/WA public lands, please visit the BLM OR/WA fire restrictions page.

People violating these prohibitions can be fined up to $1,000 and/or receive a prison term of up to one year. In addition, people responsible for starting wildland fires on Federal lands can be billed for the cost of putting out the fire. An incendiary device is defined as any firebomb or device designed or specially adapted to cause physical harm to persons or property by means of fire, consisting of an incendiary substance or agent and a means to ignite it. Examples include, but are not limited to, flamethrowers, Molotov cocktails, or accelerants.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals. 

Attached Media Files: BLM Oregon/Washington Updated Fire Order

Mon. 06/29/20
BPA offers rate relief to customers hit economically by pandemic
Bonneville Power Administration - 06/29/20 3:39 PM

Portland, Oregon The Bonneville Power Administration issued today a decision to suspend its financial reserves surcharge through September 2021.

“This decision is the result of a strong collaborative partnership with our customers,” said BPA Administrator and CEO Elliot Mainzer. “The steps we have taken in recent years to sustain BPA’s financial health make it possible for us to provide some measure of relief to our power customers as they work to address the economic consequences of the pandemic.”

The suspension of the surcharge, once approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is expected to provide relief to BPA’s power customers totaling about $3 million per month for the remainder of FY 2020, and $30 million over FY 2021. The relief could come as early as July 1 if FERC issues an immediate interim rate approval.

BPA uses financial reserves as a tool to maintain financial health and mitigate financial risk, as it allows BPA to continue to meet all payment obligations when its sales revenues fall short of forecast. Financial reserves, which are defined as cash on hand, short-term investments and deferred borrowing, also plays a role in how agencies determine BPA’s credit rating.

“Maintaining reserves is a staple of financial strength,” said Michelle Manary, BPA Chief Financial Officer. “But given the significant challenges customers are facing, we agree this is not the time to be building up cash reserves.”

This is not the only relief measure BPA is offering its customers. BPA also is streamlining the process for customers to request payment extensions if they are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 and are unable to pay their bills. This is available to all power and transmission customers on a case-by-case basis. This is not a waiver of the bill, but extends the payment out, with interest, for up to three years. BPA Power Services also has the Flexible Priority Firm Rate Option through the end of FY 2020, which is available to Regional Dialogue customers interested in shaping a portion of their FY 2020 bills into FY 2021.

“We offer these measures to our customers to be a responsive business partner,” said BPA Chief Operating Officer John Hairston. “We believe we have found a range of options that help customers without harming our bottom line in the long term.”

BPA established the financial reserves policy surcharge in its BP-20 rate proceeding as a way to build up cash reserves when they fall below a certain threshold. The surcharge triggered for BPA power customers for FY 2020 and was expected to trigger again in FY 2021.  The surcharge did not trigger for BPA’s transmission customers in FY 2020 and was not expected to trigger for FY 2021. BPA’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan and its Financial Plan provide a framework for how the agency maintains and strengthens financial health, which is foundational to its long-term commercial success.

The suspension of the surcharge occurred through an expedited rate proceeding, which concluded today with the publication of the Administrator’s Final Record of Decision.

 About BPA

The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale, carbon-free hydropower from 31 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. It also markets the output of the region’s only nuclear plant. BPA delivers this power to more than 140 Northwest electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA also owns and operates more than 15,000 circuit miles of high-voltage power lines and 261 substations, and provides transmission service to more than 300 customers. In all, BPA provides nearly a third of the power generated in the Northwest. To mitigate the impacts of the federal dams, BPA implements a fish and wildlife program that includes working with its partners to make the federal dams safer for fish passage. It also pursues cost-effective energy savings and operational solutions that help maintain safe, affordable, reliable electric power for the Northwest. www.bpa.gov