Representatives Heck and Heinrich Leading the Way on Renewable Energy Bill
TU national press release
Sportsmen are welcoming a bill introduced Thursday by Representatives Heck (R-NV) and Heinrich (D-NM) which will create a framework for responsibly developing wind and solar energy on public lands. The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act H.R. 5991 would help balance energy development and fishing and hunting opportunity by establishing a path toward a leasing program for wind and solar projects, and providing funding for conservation and recreational access. The bill is seen as a boost not only for communities affected by the development of renewable energy, but also for the sportsmen and women who are concerned about how development could impact some of their favorite places to hunt and fish.
"This is a big step forward toward creating a renewable energy policy which respects both the rights of developers and those who use and value our public lands," says Keith Curley, director of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. "Representatives Heck and Heinrich recognize the importance of healthy habitat to sustaining fish and wildlife, and by introducing this bill, they are giving a nod to the many sportsmen and women who value the quality of those lands. We thank them for charting a course toward a more balanced approach to managing energy development on public lands."
Sustaining the natural values of those lands is important on levels that go far beyond habitat and wildlife, says Brad Powell, western energy director for Trout Unlimited.
"Sportsmen play a vital part in rural economies - hunters and anglers generate more than 76 billion dollars in economic activity per year," Powell says. "Keeping healthy populations of big game and quality fisheries is important not only to sportsmen, but also the businesses and communities which support them."
The bill would move toward a leasing program for wind and solar energy on public lands, and set up a royalty which will be used to provide funding to state and county government, conservation, and the processing of wind and solar permits. Currently, wind and solar projects on public lands are managed using rights-of-way and special use permits, and there is no dedicated funding source tied to wind and solar revenues that would offset impacts to fish and game habitats and access that result from renewable energy projects. Under H.R. 5991, revenues are distributed as follows:
•25% to the county or counties in which a project is located
•25% to the State in which a project is located
•15% for a renewable energy permit processing fund for Interior (after 15 years, this revenue stream will be deposited into the conservation fund)
•35% to a fund for wildlife and land conservation and protection.
The Renewable Energy Resource Conservation Fund set up through this bill will be available to assist in protecting and restoring fish and game habitat and securing recreational access—essential components to creating a more comprehensive approach to balancing the uses of our public lands. After experiencing the problems associated with traditional energy development firsthand, hunters and anglers are wary of the possible impacts these large-scale developments can have on a landscape.
"We've seen what happens when there's a rush to develop. We've seen our hunting and fishing opportunities decline," Powell says. "This bill will help bring the balance that enables us to develop energy resources while sustaining our fishing and hunting heritage."