WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber's bid to make changes to the mining permitting process at the federal level passed the U.S. House on Thursday as part of a major energy bill lauded by Republicans and opposed by Minnesota Democrats.

The vote comes during a fierce debate in the United States over energy needs and protecting the environment. Some argue metals mining would bring jobs and is necessary for cleaner technologies like electric vehicle batteries, while others worry those projects could harm the environment.

Those tensions are starkly clear in Minnesota, where the debate over mining jobs vs. protecting Northern Minnesota's natural resources has become a defining issue in the district that Stauber has easily won during the last two election cycles, after winning a more narrow race back in 2018 to first make it to Congress.

"This helps our miners, it helps our farmers, it helps our manufacturers, it helps our small businesses," Stauber, a Republican, said about the larger GOP bill that passed in a 225 to 204 vote.

But the package is already facing a grim future on Capitol Hill and isn't likely to become law while Democrats hold the Senate and the White House.

Minnesota's four Republican members of Congress voted for the legislation, while every House Democrat from the state opposed it. Four Democrats from other parts of the country crossed party lines to support it and one Republican from Pennsylvania voted no.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said ahead of the vote that minerals should "be harvested in a responsible fashion that does no other harm."

"The whole bill is just not well thought out," she said.

Stauber's contribution helps sets a one year time frame for a government agency to complete an environmental assessment and a two year deadline for environmental impact statements, though there is some flexibility within the bill to potentially delay a deadline.

It would also let a project's company complete those tasks, though they would need to be reviewed by an agency.

"It modernizes the permitting process without lowering any environmental standards," said Stauber about his work, also noting that it limits what he dubbed as "frivolous lawsuits."

But Aaron Klemz, chief strategy officer at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, countered that it "would put industry over people then double down on it."

"It's the opposite of what we need," Klemz said.

Plans for hardrock mines, like those that have become flashpoints within Stauber's congressional district, would be new in Minnesota and carry additional environmental risks like potential acid drainage.

Thursday's vote comes after a move by Democratic President Joe Biden's administration to withdraw around 225,000 acres of national forest land in northern Minnesota from mineral leasing. The decision was the latest fatal action to be taken against the long-planned Twin Metals mine, which has faced significant opposition because of its proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Delays in state court have ensnared PolyMet's mine project which is now part of a joint venture known as NewRange Copper Nickel.

The planned Talon Metals mine in Tamarack, which has yet to begin environmental review, also looms as a major energy project.

Todd Malan, a Talon spokesman, said in an email that Stauber's portion of the larger bill "is a thoughtful set of changes to federal mine permitting." He later added that "the Tamarack Nickel Project is on state land and thus will primarily be permitted at the state level but will also need some federal permits."

Minnesota's other House Republicans were early supporters of Stauber's changes. U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, the House majority whip, said in a statement that "few understand the urgency to revitalize Minnesota's Iron Range like Rep. Stauber," and added "we are proud to have Minnesota mining front and center in our Lower Energy Costs Act."

But the topic remains controversial.

"Our understanding of Representative Stauber's bill is that it mostly applies to just mining of minerals located on federal public lands," said Kelly Applegate, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Commissioner of Natural Resources. "And assuming that to be correct, our primary concern is the negative effects of mining that tend to migrate across jurisdictional and ownership boundaries."

And in Washington, Biden's administration is already threatening a veto of the larger GOP bill.

"It doesn't have any chance of passing the Senate and I don't think the permitting reforms in there are quite right," Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig said.

Yet, earlier this week, Stauber avoided talking much about the challenges ahead for one of his major focuses.

"Politics comes into play," Stauber said.

Staff writer Chloe Johnson contributed to this report.