A bipartisan bill in Congress would change the way counties benefit from renewable energy projects while making it easier to get those wind and solar developments approved.
“With some of the best renewable energy development sites located on public lands, it’s vital to expand this industry while protecting the natural resources that make the West famous,” U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in an email. “Our bill is a common-sense way to create jobs and provide renewable energy the same opportunities as oil and gas while increasing our energy security.”
Tester was joined in co-sponsoring the bill by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.; and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. The bill is titled the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act.
“Considering more than 87 percent of Nevada’s land is federally owned, streamlining the permitting process for renewable energy on public lands is a win-win situation,” Heller said in an email. “This legislation will promote the development of renewable energy on public lands, while protecting native wildlife habitat and investing in our state and counties.”
Federal Bureau of Land Management permits for wind and solar projects can take more than two years to complete. The bill would simplify the permitting process, making it easier for companies to make long-term plans.
It also would increase local government’s direct royalties from renewable energy development. It sends 25 percent of sales of energy on the federal land would go to counties for local services like road maintenance, public safety and law enforcement. Another 35 percent of the royalties would benefit fish and wildlife programs as well as hunting and fishing access affected by the energy projects.