McSally’s bipartisan bill would permit renewable energy development on public lands

.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) spearheaded a bipartisan contingent in proposing legislation to spur the development of renewable energy on public lands.

“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,” Sen. McSally said.

On Oct. 22, she sponsored the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, S. 2666, with seven cosponsors, including U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to 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,” said Sen. McSally. “Nearly 70 percent of land in Arizona is controlled by the federal government.”

If enacted, the bill would 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; and direct agencies to provide staffing resources to ensure project permitting moves forward as efficiently as possible, according to the bill’s text.

Additionally, S. 2666 would distribute certain revenues derived through the bill and would return: 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; and 35 percent into a fund for conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and increasing access for outdoor recreation.

The portion allocated to conservation funding would increase to 40 percent after 10 years by decreasing the distribution to permitting by 5 percent after the program has matured, according to Sen. McSally’s office.

Several groups support the proposed measure, including the National Association of Counties, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Wilderness Society, among others.