“This legislation (HR-596) will ensure that Colorado is at the center of the coming renewable-energy boom,´ said Polis, a Democrat from Boulder, who along with nine other co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle introduced The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013. “It’s outrageous that acquiring the right to drill for fossil fuels on our taxpayer-owned land is a simple matter of responding to an auction, while getting a permit to develop wind and solar resources is made so difficult through bureaucratic hurdles.
“We allow oil and gas companies to start fracking right in everyone’s backyard with minimal notice and no real way to object,” Polis said, “but it take years for approval to put a solar farm on our federal land. We must grow our economy by producing cheaper energy, and this bill will help the West lead the way by leveling the playing field between oil and renewable energy.”
The act would create a five-year pilot program for wind and solar energy sites on appropriate public land, and drive an efficient process that provides key information to developers who currently must operate almost blindly, Polis said.
At the end of the five years, the Secretary of the Interior would determine if the program should be expanded to all public federal land. If so, royalties would be divided according to a formula that dedicates 25 percent to the county, 25 percent to the state, 15 percent for a renewable-energy permit fund, 25 percent for wildlife, land and water conservation, and 10 percent for deficit reduction.
“Our counties and states will benefit from energy projects on federal land within their borders helping us fund roads, schools and health care,” Polis said.
The BLM oversees 8.4 million acres of land in Colorado, much of which would be prime territory for wind and solar energy production, Polis said. Currently, counties containing BLM lands receive no benefit from the resources located within their boundaries.