Senate panel approves Tester’s plan for new energy office in Montana

Montana’s “Renewable Energy Pilot Project Office” would cut red tape on energy projects

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A key Senate committee has approved a plan by Senator Jon Tester that would establish a new office in Montana designed to cut red tape and speed up work on renewable energy projects.

If signed into law, Tester’s plan would create a Renewable Energy Pilot Project Office in Montana and  several other western states to help energy developers get federal permits for renewable energy projects and transmission lines.

“The offices will help cut through all the red tape that slows down too many innovative projects,” Tester said.  “By streamlining the process used to get renewable energy projects off the ground, we’ll create more jobs and opportunity in Montana and across the country.  We can’t continue to put all our eggs in one basket as we work to secure America’s energy future.”

The legislation approved this week by the Senate Energy Committee is actually an expanded version of Tester’s original legislation (S. 523).  It calls for Renewable Energy Pilot Project Offices in Montana and several additional states.

The new legislation also includes a provision requiring federal royalties from wind and solar power generated on federal land to be put into a special fund to help pay for the Renewable Energy Pilot Project Offices.

The offices would be housed in existing Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices. Tester’s legislation requires the U.S. Energy and Interior Secretaries to decide which BLM offices to use in those nine states. The bill also allows each Renewable Energy Pilot Project Office to hire additional employees to help renewable energy developers get federal permits.

Tester’s bill authorizes up to $10 million per year through 2019 to pay for the offices.  Actual yearly funding, however, will ultimately be decided by the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Tester serves.