Original Source: NACo

NACo has endorsed legislation that promotes the production of renewable energy on public lands and ensures that local communities will share in the revenue generated from the development.

The proposed legislation, the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA), would make several updates to the nation’s current renewable energy policy. Among the changes: It would streamline and improve the environmental review process for new wind and solar energy projects, eliminate duplicative analyses, and provide counties with an equitable share of rents and royalties from these projects to offset their impact on local communities.

Counties build and maintain 45 percent of America’s roads and 39 percent of America’s bridges and invest millions of dollars annually to provide public safety and other critical services on federal public land. The costs of providing these services can be especially high in the geographically large public lands counties that stand to be most affected by this legislation, underscoring the importance of revenue sharing with counties.

The legislation would establish a formula for distributing royalties paid by companies using public land for energy development. Under the formula, counties would receive 25 percent and another 35 percent would be allocated for conservation and to improve public lands access. Currently, fees paid by renewable energy developers on public lands are retained by the federal government. By reinvesting royalties into county governments, PLREDA would enable counties to continue providing critical services on public lands as development and the demand for county services increased as a result of renewable energy production.

The bill’s sponsors in the House, Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), hosted a briefing on the measure (H.R. 2663) Jan. 12.

“The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act is a forward-thinking, bipartisan bill that will encourage clean energy innovation and allow all Americans to reap the benefits of increased energy production,” Polis said at the briefing.

PLREDA, Gosar added, presents an opportunity to address several problems with a simple solution. “This bill will allow us to streamline the permitting process for effective use of public lands, spur development of renewable energy, allow local counties to benefit from sources developed within their borders, and support new access for sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts.”

NACo encourages counties to pay close attention to this bipartisan legislation as it works its way through Congress and call on their representatives to support the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act.