Fast-41, Mining, and What It Means for the YK-Delta

So what is the Fast-41 Act? 

FAST-41 stands for Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Therefore, currently covered projects must:

    • involve construction of infrastructure,
    • require authorization or environmental review by a Federal agency,
    • are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA),
    • are likely to require a total investment of more than $200 million, and
    • do not qualify for an abbreviated environmental review and authorization process.

Ok, but what does that mean?

It means that typically, FAST-41 applies to the following sectors: conventional energy production, renewable energy production, electricity transmission, surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, broadband, pipelines, and manufacturing.

Where can I find more information on FAST-41?

Here is a link to a FAST-41 fact sheet.

So what’s up with mining?

Mining has more harmful impacts than any of the currently covered sectors. Mining produces vast quantities of waste, including toxic waste, that must be managed in perpetuity. Even with modern mining technology, chronic seepage and sudden accidental releases to the environment are the norm, and are likely to increase as mining companies develop increasingly lower grade deposits. Every mine and mine location is unique, posing technical challenges that can sometimes take a very long time to analyze, through no fault of a permitting agency.

All of this suggests that we need more rigorous, flexible permitting to reduce the damage and public costs imposed  by mining. This would not be achieved by admitting mining to the FAST-41 Act that is designed to make permitting quicker.

It is also noteworthy that there is no competing need to speed up permitting. Surveyed mining companies report that the US is already among the most attractive jurisdictions in the world to invest in mining. Mine permits on federal lands take an average of just two years to complete, which is competitive with other developed countries’ permitting timelines. When federal permitting is delayed, research shows that those delays are most often due to either a lack of information from the project proponent or a lack of agency resources, neither of which FAST-41 is designed to address.

Further, before the Council can add mining as a covered sector, which is a far-reaching proposal that would have “substantial direct effects” on Indian tribes, the Council must conduct meaningful government-to-government consultation with all potentially affected Tribal governments. The Council must also evaluate the proposal’s potential to disproportionately affect minority and low-income populations.

What Comments have been made?

On December 28, 2020, a letter was sent to the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council in Washington DC. It was signed by at least 46 independent nonprofit, scientific, and indigenous groups with the intention of stopping mining from being added to the FAST-41 Act. The reasons listed were:

    • A rigorous and flexible approach to mine permitting is essential.
    • Mine permitting is already prompt.
    • FAST-41 contains provisions that would undermine rigorous and careful permitting of mines.
    • The Pebble Mine is a prime example of why FAST-41 should not cover mining.
    • Adding mining as a covered sector required additional process.

From the letter, “Our organizations have significant experience with the federal permitting processes for mines and how those mines affect communities and the environment. We are lawyers, scientists, grassroots organizers, policy consultants, and environmental specialists working to combat harmful environmental, economic, social, cultural,  and health impacts of mining and promote sustainable solutions. Collectively, we represent members, constituents, and clients across the nation who are on the front lines of the mining industry’s worst impacts– which are too often rooted in a rushed, inadequate permitting process” (Page, 2).

The letter can be accessed here and contains detailed explanations for each argument.

Did the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council Respond?

Yes, they did. In summary, they ignored all concerns submitted in the letter. The Council voted to add mining as a sector with infrastructure projects eligible for coverage under the FAST-41 Act. This will effectively allow qualified mining infrastructure projects to become FAST-41 covered projects. This will help Federal agencies coordinate their environmental review efforts to improve the timeliness, efficiency,  predictability, and transparency of the decision-making processes associated with covered mining projects. To read more on the response letter, you can access it here.

Another helpful article can be found here.

So, what now?

At risk groups are currently huddled trying to determine what next steps should be taken. The Biden-Harris administration may also be able to roll-back the decision when they take office. More information should be coming soon. If you are interested in getting more involved in this fight, let us know!

Funding and Opportunities (as of January 11)

Applications for the Gather Food Sovereignty Grant are open until January 14th at 3pm AK time. This opportunity is targeting emerging projects that focus on developing Tribal Food Sovereignty.  Through the first round of the grant, First Nations expects to award up to 13 grant awards of approximately $32,000 to support Native American-led food sovereignty work.

The BIA has released Requests for Proposals for the Fisheries, Wildlife & Recreation Programs. Projects will be funded in four program areas: endangered species, invasive species, hatchery maintenance, and Tribal youth initiatives. Applications must be received by the Alaska regional office by January 31, 2021. Forms for all four program areas are available on the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society website who are also offering technical assistance for applicants.

Training and technical support through FEMA is available for Tribal governments interested in applying for Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants. The grant application period is currently open and closes on January 29, 2021 at 11am AK time. Access the BRIC and Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant funding call and webinars here.

The application deadline for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs funding for energy technology on Tribal lands is February 11th at 1pm AK time. The US Department of Energy expects to make between $10 and $15 million available for new awards under this funding opportunity. A recording of a webinar providing guidance is available on the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs website.

Applications are open for UAF Research Experience for Undergraduates until February 15th. Two tracks are available including one open to undergraduates with Alaska Native heritage with an interest in oceanography in the Gulf of Alaska. Funding support from the U.S. National Science Foundation includes a stipend.

2021 Fisheries Technician Job Announcement

Hey everyone!
ONC fisheries is now preparing for the summer 2021 season and looking to recruit technicians and ANSEP interns. This is a great opportunity for highschool or university students to get experience working with a tribal organization fishery program.
Attached below is the fisheries technician announcement.
Please have interested applicants send a resume & cover letter to Katie Russell [] and Danielle Lowrey [].


ONC’s Environmental Program is hoping to gauge what environmental issues are most important to the community. We will put together resources for the community on these issues once they are identified. Please share your email at the end of the survey if you wish to receive resources directly. These resources will also be shared in a variety of ways late spring of 2021.

All participants in the survey will be entered into a drawing for gift card prizes!!

QUYANA for your participation!!