Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Incentivize Renewable Energy, Localize Benefits

Press Release

U.S. Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and James Risch (R-ID) introduced bipartisan legislation yesterday to incentivize responsible renewable energy development on public lands and allow local communities to reap the economic benefits.

The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA) of 2019 would streamline the permitting process for renewable energy development on public lands and establish a revenue sharing mechanism to ensure local communities receive a percentage of the revenue created by these projects.

"Energy independence is critical to our nation's economic security and renewable energy plays an important role in achieving that goal," McSally said. "Nearly 70 percent of land in Arizona is controlled by the federal government. This bill cuts through the bureaucratic red tape to deliver additional affordable and reliable energy for Arizonans, while allowing rural Arizona communities to share in the economic benefits that come from multiple use of public lands."

"The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act modernizes the leasing of federal public lands for development of solar and wind energy. This bill also directs revenues from these projects to impacted counties and critical wildlife habitat conservation projects," said Heinrich. "By streamlining renewable energy development, especially in a state with abundant wind and solar like New Mexico, we can create quality jobs and help make America more energy independent."

"Geothermal, solar, and wind energy are all critical in an all-of-the-above energy solution that keeps costs low and our nation's energy supply secure," said Gardner. "The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act streamlines the permitting process for renewable energy projects to be developed on public lands. By focusing on responsibly developing renewable energy, we have an opportunity to make a better life for all Americans."

"Leasing public lands for clean energy development is important to a comprehensive, long-term approach to meet our nation's energy needs," said Bennet. "This bill is a common-sense approach that will put renewables on a level playing field with other forms of energy, while supporting local economies and future conservation efforts."

"This bipartisan bill is a big win for renewable energy development, good paying Montana jobs, and our nation's energy security," Daines said. "Montana has some of the best potential for renewable energy development in the nation and it's critical we move this bill to promote more energy on our public lands."

"Public lands can and should be part of the solution to the climate crisis," Udall said. "I'm proud to support this legislation, which will encourage the responsible development of renewable energy on public lands -- supporting our economy and benefiting the environment in the process. This is a win-win. New Mexico has the potential to lead our clean energy economy, and I'll continue to support efforts to create jobs in renewables and other forward-looking sectors."

Specifically, PLREDA would:

Use upfront planning and careful siting to identify appropriate areas for wind, solar and geothermal energy development and incentivize development in these lower-conflict priority areas.
Ensure impacts to wildlife, habitat and cultural resources are avoided and minimized.
Direct agencies to provide staffing resources to ensure project permitting moves forward as efficiently as possible.
Distribute certain revenues derived through this Act by returning:
25 percent to the state where development takes place,
25 percent to counties of origin,
15 percent to more efficiently processing permit applications and reducing the backlog of renewable energy permits,
35 percent into a fund for conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and increasing access for outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing.
*The portion allocated to conservation funding will increase to 40 percent after 10 years by decreasing the distribution to permitting by 5 percent after the program has matured.

Click HERE to read the bill text.

Support for the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act:

National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase: "The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act encourages responsible, much-needed energy projects on federal public lands. The bill provides equitable revenue sharing with the counties that provide critical services and achieves a balanced approach to renewable energy development and conservation. We applaud Senators McSally, Heinrich and others for introducing this bipartisan legislation and call on Congress to pass it swiftly."

President and CEO of Trout Unlimited Chris Wood said: "Our public lands contain some of the best trout and salmon habitat in the country and as we develop these important renewable projects, we need to remember that even clean energy has its impacts. Solar and wind are now more cost effective than ever and that's a good thing. But we must find balance that elevates the importance of conservation. This bill ensures fish and wildlife populations -- and the communities that host these projects -- are not overlooked. We're grateful to Sens. McSally and Heinrich for leading this bill in the Senate."

President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Whit Fosburgh said: "This bill would achieve a rare win-win scenario by thoughtfully balancing renewable energy development and habitat needs, while creating a consistent stream of revenue to fund essential fish and wildlife management projects. We're grateful for the support of Senate lawmakers who are prioritizing opportunities to enhance sportsmen's access, clean water resources, and critical habitat for important game species through this common-sense approach."

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Conservation Director John Gale said: "Hunters and anglers remain committed to enhancing opportunities on our public lands and promoting management practices that avoid impacts to wildlife habitat. PLREDA achieves this by proactively mitigating and prioritizing renewable energy development away from wildlife while directing solar and wind revenues to a conservation fund that conserves wildlife habitat. We thank Sens. McSally and Heinrich for introducing practical legislation that safeguards our hunting and fishing traditions."

Managing Director of Government Affairs of the Natural Resources Defense Council John Bowman said: "This legislation helps ensure that we harness wind, solar and geothermal energy on our public lands in a strategic way. It modernizes the approach to developing clean energy on publicly-held lands, ensuring that we identify the most appropriate areas, and proceed in a way that minimizes the impact on wildlife, habitat and surrounding communities."

Senior representative for The Wilderness Society's energy and climate program Katie Gilman said: "This necessary legislation ensures our public lands play an important role in combatting climate change and contributing to the future of renewable energy through smart planning, responsible development and the protection of our natural and cultural heritage. We applaud the bipartisan group of Senators for their leadership and showing that Washington is still working for the people."