Tester calls on Interior Dept. to fully implement his job-creating energy plan

Senator applauds department’s ‘first step’, urges more to be done

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the U.S. Interior Department to fully implement his bipartisan blueprint to bring more renewable energy jobs to Montana.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management recently announced that it will allow energy developers to increase wind and solar energy projects on public lands.  The announcement follows the introduction of Tester’s bipartisan bill in November that lays out a clear path allowing developers to competitively bid to build responsible, renewable energy projects on public lands.

Tester recently told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the department’s announcement is a good “first step” to growing the nation’s renewable energy sector and creating jobs.

“Renewable energy development is expanding across the United States and public lands will be critical to its success,” Tester wrote Salazar.  “I believe it is critically important to reinvest the receipts for wind and solar energy back into the communities and ecosystems which are impacted.”

Tester’s bipartisan Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act would allow states to share in the revenue to protect wildlife and access to public lands.  It is cosponsored by Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). 

Sportsmen’s organizations and the non-partisan fiscal watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense support Tester’s bill.

Tester, a strong supporter of responsible renewable and conventional energy development, recently told Senate leaders to extend the wind energy tax credit that will strengthen Montana’s growing wind industry.

Tester’s letter to Interior Secretary Salazar is available below and online HERE.


March 2, 2012

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:       

I write you to support the Bureau of Land Management’s recent proposed rulemaking for competitive leasing for wind and solar energy production on public lands:  Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding a Competitive Process for Leasing Public Lands for Solar and Wind Energy Development.

Renewable energy development is expanding across the United States and public lands will be critical to its success.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 set a goal of developing 10,000 MW of renewable energy on public lands by 2015.  With some of the best renewable energy development sites located on public land, it is critically important to meet the twin goals of expanding renewable energy while conserving limited and sensitive natural resources. To reach that end the administration must develop a clear and straightforward process of permitting and developing renewable energy.

As the lead sponsor of S. 1775, Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2011, I am encouraged that some of the fundamental concepts in my bill are included in BLM’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and were mentioned in the President’s State of the Union address.  I urge you to use S. 1775 as a model, while acknowledging competitive leasing is just one component in a comprehensive package to guide and manage renewable energy development.  Leasing public lands for renewable energy will affect multiple agencies and require discussions about revenues, avoidance, mitigation and additional legal tools. 

Though I believe that it is important to begin competitive leasing and incorporate adequate mitigation on BLM lands, I do not believe our work ends there.  As S.1775 demonstrates, I believe it is critically important to reinvest the receipts for wind and solar development on public lands back into the communities and ecosystems which are impacted.  I also believe the only way to increase development of renewable energy on public land is to streamline the permitting process through reinvesting funds into the development of later projects which is why S. 1775 directs 15% of receipts towards permitting, so permits and environmental studies from state and federal agencies are coordinated and addressed in a timely fashion. 

Competitive leasing will occur on a swath of public lands, from BLM to the Forest Service.  The Administration should design rules that are similar, if not identical, for leasing on Forest Service lands like BLM lands.  And the agencies must continue to identify resource potential while mitigating impacts through a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on wind and solar for the Forest Service, as directed in S. 1775.  Given that the Defense Department already has invested considerable effort in developing renewable energy on Defense reservations, I encourage you to work with your counterparts there as well to ensure a streamlined process.

I applaud your first step of working towards a competitive leasing process and hope you will continue to inform your regulations with input from all sides and use our legislative text as a guide for balanced, successful and streamlined leasing.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jon Tester

CC:      Marcilynn Burke, Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management
Bob Abbey, Director, Bureau of Land Management
Steve Black, Counselor to the Secretary 
Neil Kornze, Acting Deputy Director for Programs and Policy
Ray Brady, Renewable Energy Policy Team