Renewable energy on public lands may receive a boost from legislation introduced by Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Mike Levin (D-CA) on July 17.
The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (H.R. 3794), or PLREDA, seeks to balance renewable energy production with conservation and thereby promote increased development of wind, solar and geothermal energy on federal lands. The legislation’s key provisions include:
Revenue sharing: the legislation creates a revenue-sharing mechanism whereby affected stakeholders will benefit
States – 25% to the states where projects are located
Counties – 25% to the counties where projects are located
Sportsmen and Conservation – 25% into a fund for sportsmen and conservation purposes including increased access to outdoor recreation
Permitting – 15% to be used for finding permitting efficiencies and reducing current backlog
Deficit reduction – 10% for deficit reduction
Renewable energy goal: places a goal for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to permit 25 gigawatts by 2025
BLM personnel: requires the Bureau of Land Management to designate specific employees who will be responsible for monitoring, planning and permitting renewable energy projects
Renewable Energy Coordination Office: seeks to improve management of project permitting through the creation of a Renewable Energy Coordination Office
DOI fees discretion: allows DOI authority to reduce rental rates and capacity fees to encourage development
The legislation has broad bipartisan support within the House of Representative including both the House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3) and Ranking Member Rob Bishop (UT-1). At present, it has 15 Republican and 12 Democratic cosponsors.
The legislation has broad support from a range of industry, environmental and conservation stakeholders including EDF Renewables, National Association of Counties, American Sportfishing Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Solar Energy Industries Association.
Currently, 40% of the total geothermal electric generating capacity and 5% of utility-scale wind and solar energy capacity comes from public lands. PLREDA seeks to change this dynamic and encourage local, state and federal governments as well as renewable energy companies to invest in renewable energy projects on federal lands. Unlike many energy issues in Washington, PLREDA enjoys bipartisan support and conveys a desire by both sides of the aisle to work toward a common goal of increasing renewable energy’s percentage in the country’s energy mix. This early, bipartisan support has caught the attention of the House Natural Resources Committee where the legislation is scheduled to have a hearing on Thursday, July 25 before the Energy and Minerals Resources Subcommittee. While the legislation will need to be marked up before it can proceed to a vote of the committee and sent to the full House of Representatives, the support of both Chairman Grijalva and Ranking Member Bishop bode well for the legislation’s potential passage.