The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (H.R. 3794) (PLREDA), introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ); and a bi-partisan companion bill in the Senate (S.2666) introduced by Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are both gaining momentum. The proposed legislation aims to create a dedicated office allowing federal land management agencies to streamline permitting on renewable power projects, cutting the time it takes agencies to conduct environmental reviews. In some instances, permitting for renewables projects on federal lands can last years and even up to a decade or more. These bills should see that stretch of time reduced significantly.
Additionally, the bills would distribute some federal revenue generated from renewables development to local county and state governments. They would also designate part of that revenue to a fund that supports outdoor recreation, sporting and conservation. Both of which appeal to environmentalists concerned about energy development on federal lands.
Lastly, as part of the bills, the Interior Department would be required to declare low-conflict priority areas where wind, solar, and geothermal power development can avoid or minimize impact to wildlife, habitat and cultural resources.
Right and left side-by-side
Joining Rep. Gosar, a supporter of President Donald Trump, in sponsoring the House bill is Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), who served on the National Finance Committee for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. As of now, the House bill has 55 cosponsors – a balanced mix of both Democrats and Republicans. And the Senate bill has gained 10 co-sponsors. Both are rare examples of energy legislation that both sides of the aisle have agreed to support.
During his time in office, the president has made a conscious effort to place his energy focus on oil, gas and coal extraction. His executive orders issued earlier last year sought to accelerate construction of oil and gas pipelines and other projects all across the U.S. However, his enthusiasm for renewables development on federal land has been much less apparent, a marked shift from the Obama administration.
Bipartisan energy support is possible
This proposed legislation is a step in the right direction for the energy industry. Developers across the energy space are – unfortunately – all too familiar with permitting delays. They've become nothing more than an accepted part of life. But for those in the wind, solar, and geothermal energy industries, these bills have the ability to kick start momentum for renewables that has faded a bit under an administration focused primarily on oil, gas and coal extraction.
These efforts serve as a reminder that bipartisan legislation isn't entirely a relic of the past even in today's ultra-polarized political environment. When both sides recognize the important role the energy industry plays in bettering the lives of their constituents no matter their political affiliation, it can happen and is happening.
This article, originally published August 8, 2019, was revised and updated January 1, 2020.
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