Renewables bill gets a second chance in new Congress

Keith Curley, Trout Unlimited, (703) 284-9428
Brian Zupancic, Trout Unlimited, (202) 997-4966


Renewables bill gets a second chance in new Congress

Bill would direct funds toward fish, wildlife, counties and states

Washington, D.C. Congress continues to recognize the value of hunting and angling with the reintroduction of a bill Monday by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dean Heller (R-NV).

The bipartisan bill would put royalty money from public land wind and solar energy development toward conserving the pristine fisheries and healthy herds of pronghorn, elk and deer the West is known for.

Also important to note is the money this bill would funnel to counties and states, many of whom voiced their support for the bill in its previous introductions.

This legislation underscores the fact that sportsmen and women don’t have to choose between the need for domestic energy and the need for healthy habitat.

“We want our public lands to be great places to fish and hunt,” said Keith Curley, director of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. “This bill would help ensure that when wind and solar energy development occurs on public lands, there are resources available to protect and restore habitat and secure public access in the affected areas.”

The bi-partisan Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act, S. 279, would bring wind and solar energy in line with other forms of energy development on public lands by establishing a royalty payment system and sharing half of the revenues from development with state and local government. Another portion of the revenues would be placed in a conservation fund to protect and improve habitat and create access for hunters and anglers.

Finding a balance between energy development and habitat conservation is important to communities that rely on jobs from both the energy and outdoor recreation sectors. A report released by the Department of the Interior showed recreational visits to public lands alone generated nearly $48.7 billion in economic activity and supported 403,000 jobs nationwide in 2011. So it goes without saying that maintaining those lands is important.

“We are already seeing wind and solar play a role in our public lands. But right now we lack the resources to balance energy development with fish and wildlife conservation,” Curley said. “This bill gives us some security that as we move forward, the lands that we as hunters and anglers value will be protected.”


Renewable Energy Bills: Facts and Figures

S. 279 introduced today by Senators Tester (D-MT) and Heller (R-NV), and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 6 Senators:

Mark Udall (D-CO)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Martin Heinrich (D-MT)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)

The bill would do the following:

  • Facilitate responsible development of wind and solar energy on public lands
  • Institute a royalty for public land wind and solar energy production
  • Set up a pilot leasing program for wind and solar on public lands
    • 2 wind and 2 solar pilots, followed by Secretarial determination on whether to fully transition to a leasing program
    • Clear process for transitioning from current permitting system to leasing
  • Revenues from wind and solar energy development used for permit processing
    • 15 percent of revenues derived from wind and solar development will be put toward permit processing
    • Funding to offset impacts to fish, wildlife and water resources
    • 35 percent of revenues derived from wind and solar development will be used to offset impacts to fish and wildlife habitats and water resources.
    • Revenue return to states and counties
      • As with other forms of energy development, revenues from wind and solar development would be returned to states and counties of origin
      • 25 percent of revenue to the state where energy was produced
      • 25 percent of revenue to the county/counties where energy was produced

A companion to S. 279 was introduced Friday in the House of Representatives. H.R. 596 was introduced by Representatives Gosar (R-AZ), Thompson (D-CA), Polis (D-CO), and Heck (R-NV), and is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Scott Tipton (R-CO)
Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Jim Costa (D-CA)
Jeff Denham (R-CA)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)
David Schweikert (R-AZ)
Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)

Board support: Past versions of this legislation have been supported by sportsmen’s groups, counties, conservationists and others.

  • National Association of Counties
  • Sportsmen’s Groups: Trout Unlimited, American Fisheries Society, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, Boone and Crockett Club, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Catch-A-Dream Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Conservation Force, Campfire Club of America, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Wildlife Federation, North American Grouse Partnership, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Pope and Young Club, Quality Deer Management Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wildlife Forever, The Wildlife Society, Wildlife Management Institute and Wild Sheep Foundation.
  • Taxpayers for Common Sense

Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with more than 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. Follow TU on the TU blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter via @TroutUnlimited.