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Montana Delegation Applauds Hearings on Public Land Development

PHOTO: Legislation sponsored by Senator Jon Tester that would make it easier for energy companies to lease public lands for renewable energy projects will receive hearings in both the U.S. House and Senate Tuesday. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
PHOTO: Legislation sponsored by Senator Jon Tester that would make it easier for energy companies to lease public lands for renewable energy projects will receive hearings in both the U.S. House and Senate Tuesday. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
July 29, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. - A month ago, backers of legislation designed to make it easier for wind and solar energy companies to lease public land for projects were worried the bills wouldn't receive hearings any time soon. But the proposals are on the calendar Tuesday before committees in both the Senate and House.

The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act is sponsored by Montana Senator Jon Tester. Nick Gevock, outreach director with the Montana Wildlife Federation, says the bill's strong bipartisan support is bolstered by support from the Western Governors' Association and National Association of Counties.

"It would pump money into states and counties," says Gevock. "The largest share would go for wildlife and land conservation, and we think that's fantastic."

Gevock cautions the legislation also directs the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service to assess regions for possible development based on, among other things, the least amount of wildlife conflicts.

While public lands issues have been tied up in Congress this year, Gevock says the bill is making progress because it benefits everyone, and offers hope for the economic development of rural communities. According to Gevock, energy companies are waiting for the legislation to become law so they can pursue development.

"This would give them some certainty about the process so they can make these projects happen," notes Gevock.

Montana's congressional delegation supports the legislation.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT