Reintroduced legislation incentivizing more renewable energy projects on public lands is getting rare bipartisan support.
The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act would streamline permitting for new geothermal, wind and solar farms on federal lands.
It would also pump revenues generated by those projects into state and local communities as well as conservation efforts to improve wildlife habitats and access to public lands.
“Renewable energy, particularly solar, is an incredible opportunity for Arizona,” Sen. Martha McSally, R-Az., said during a committee hearing last week. “But in a state with nearly 70 percent of our land is controlled by the federal government, burdensome federal permitting processes and not competitive prices severely restrict our renewable energy potential.”
McSally is co-sponsoring the bill with eight other Western senators, including Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont. and Steve Daines, R-Mont.
“This bipartisan bill is a big win for renewable energy development, good paying Montana jobs, and our nation’s energy security,” Daines said in a statement.
Despite bipartisan support, the bill may face long odds, considering that McSally’s bill marks the eleventh time in eight years the legislation has been introduced in Congress, and it’s never been voted on.
Supporters also include conservation and hunting groups, including Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society.
“This necessary legislation ensures our public lands play an important role in combating climate change and contributing to the future of renewable energy through smart planning, responsible development and the protection of our natural and cultural heritage,” Katie Gilman, senior representative for The Wilderness Society’s energy and climate program, said in a statement.
The act was examined during a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing last week.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.