With wide-ranging support from sportsmen to local governments, Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) are introducing a bipartisan bill that streamlines permitting for renewable energy projects on public lands.
The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act will create a leasing pilot project to develop a 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.
Joining Tester and Heller in sponsoring the bill are Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
In introducing the bill, Tester said that Montana's potential for renewable energy can make the Treasure State a worldwide leader in energy production and create countless jobs.
"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," Tester said. "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."
"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. "This legislation will promote the development of renewable energy on public lands, while protecting native wildlife habitat and investing in our state and counties.
"When it comes to energy: Montana has it all," Baucus said. "This bill is about working together to make sure Montanans can use every tool available to support jobs while maximizing homegrown energy."
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. The bill will reduce the number of steps required by law and make it easier for companies to make long-term plans.
The changes will also increase local governments' 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, The Western Governors Association, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.