With wide-ranging support from sportsmen to local governments, Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and John Tester (D-Montana) today introduced a bipartisan bill that streamlines permitting for renewable energy projects on public lands.
Risch and Tester's Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act will create a leasing pilot project to help create a clear, straightforward development process that treats renewable energy similar to traditional sources of energy development like oil and gas.
The senators' bill also ensures that funds generated by energy development benefits states, counties and various conservation efforts.
"A broad domestic energy supply is critical for America to grow its economy," Risch said. "This plan helps accomplish that by putting renewable energies under a similar framework as conventional energy sources. It also requires royalty payments that will benefit the counties and states where the projects occur."
In introducing the bill, Tester said that Montana's potential for renewable energy can make the Treasure State a worldwide leader in energy production, resulting in countless jobs and new opportunities.
"With some of the best renewable energy development sites located on public lands, it is vital to expand this industry while protecting the natural resources that make our region famous," Tester said. "Our bill is a common-sense way to create jobs and give renewable energy the same opportunities as oil and gas. And by responsibly developing our energy resources, we will also increase our energy security."
Currently, obtaining Bureau of Land Management permits for solar and wind projects on public lands can take more than two years -- without any rights to the land until after all the environmental assessments are completed and full permit approval. Risch's and Tester's bill will reduce the number of cumbersome steps required by law and make it easier for companies to plan for the long term.
Tester's and Risch's changes will also afford local governments increased revenue and certainty by establishing a more predictable and direct royalty system from renewables that will support conservation and federal land access projects.
The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act is supported by a broad collection of organizations, including Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Association of Counties, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership