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When it comes to renewable energy, battling climate change and green jobs, Senator Mark Udall (D. CO) doesn't know when to quit:

Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act in the last week, but it’s not this bill’s first time around the block.

It was first introduced in the 112th Congress but never came to the Senate floor for a vote. When the 112th Congress ended in January, the bill died with it.

But Udall and Bennet, along with several other bipartisan co-sponsors, resurrected it.

The bill would make it easier to begin renewable-energy projects on federal lands, according to a news release. - Durango Herald, 2/16/13

Here's a little more info on what the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act would do:

The bill would move toward a leasing program for wind and solar energy projects on federal public land. Currently, such projects are managed using rights-of-way and special use permits that are non-competitive, encourage speculation and do not provide compensation for the use of these lands. In addition, agencies would be required to complete their environmental analysis—including the solar programmatic environmental impact statement (see related story)—and amend any land-use plans.

Under the pilot program, at least two solar and two wind locations would be available for lease under a competitive bidding process.  Within two years and after reviewing and assessing the success of the leasing program to make any necessary adjustments, the Department of the Interior (DOI) then would establish a permanent program.  The new leasing program would provide a consistent playing field for the renewable energy industry while ensuring a fair return to the American public for the industry’s use of these resources.

If enacted, the leasing program would mirror leasing programs for federal fluid minerals (oil, gas, coal bed methane and others), including a competitive lease sale and rental fees and royalties that are intended to bring “a fair return to the United States” for use of the land.  Twenty-five percent of revenues would be distributed to the county or counties in which a project is located, 25 percent to the state in which a project is located, 15 percent for a renewable energy permit processing fund for DOI (after 15 years, this revenue stream will be deposited into the conservation fund), and 35 percent to a fund for wildlife and land conservation and protection. - Wildlife Management Institute

The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act is also co-sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D. MT), Dean Heller (R. NV), Max Baucus (D. MT), Martin Heinrich (D. NM), Jim Risch (R. ID) and Tom Udall (D. NM).  The act also has been endorsed by Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Association of Counties, the Western Governors Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  Here's what Udall and Bennet have to say about the bill:

"We in Colorado and across America are blessed with abundant wind, solar and geothermal resources that are ready to power our nation, create jobs and grow our economy. We should develop these resources in a responsible, sustainable way," Udall said. "That's why I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues to introduce legislation to improve the way we develop and use the renewable energy resources on our public lands. By directing a portion of the revenues from these leases to state and local governments – as well as to conservation – this bill will help support our schools and rebuild infrastructure while conserving the land and water that our rural economies depend on."
"Colorado's renewable energy resources have made our state a national leader in developing a cleaner, more diverse energy portfolio." Bennet said. "This bill is a common-sense approach that will promote renewable energy, while also helping local communities safeguard their natural resources and grow their economies."

Currently, obtaining permits for solar and wind projects on public lands can take several years. The bill will reduce the number of steps required by law and make it easier for companies to make long-term plans. The changes will also increase local governments' revenue and certainty by establishing a more predictable and direct royalty system from renewables that will support conservation. -, 2/13/13

Udall has also remained vigilant in pushing other green energy initiatives through the Senate.  Udall remains committed to renewing the extension of the wind tax credit:

He is dusting off old arguments in favor of the wind production tax credit — which costs more than $10 billion a year — as he pushes for a three- to five-year renewal.

He faces even tougher odds this year because Congress is in a cost-cutting mood. The first phase of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years will take effect March 1 unless Congress comes up with a plan to avert them.

The dire fiscal picture doesn’t change the fact that the industry needs more time to mature and stand on its own financial feet, Udall said in a recent interview.

And whatever money Congress spends on helping wind power compete against conventional fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal “is an investment in the future,” he said.

“That’s an investment in American-grown energy, that’s an investment in American manufacturing, and more importantly, that’s an investment in American jobs,” said Udall, who delivered more than 25 speeches on the Senate floor in the previous Congress, urging his colleagues to keep the credit alive. - The Coloradan, 2/15/13

Udall is also determined in getting the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act:

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) re-introduced the act, which would designate 33,000 new acres as wilderness, into the U.S. Senate for the third time on Thursday. Most of the new acreage would be expansions of the existing Lizard Head and Mt. Sneffels wilderness areas.

It would also establish a new area called McKenna Peak Wilderness in western San Miguel County and create the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area along the alpine ridge between San Miguel and San Juan counties, where existing uses, including heli-skiing, will be allowed to continue. Under the act, 6,600 acres would also be withdrawn from eligibility for mineral leasing in Naturita Canyon.

The bill has had a hard time navigating its way through Congress and has not made it through on either previous try. The legislation was first introduced in 2009 by then-Congressman John Salazar (D-Colo.) and as a companion Senate bill by Udall, but failed to pass in the 111th Congress. It was re-introduced in 2011 by Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who is a co-sponsor, but it did not pass before the Congressional session ended.

In its current incarnation, the bill has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Local supporters are hoping this time will be different. - Telluride Daily Planet, 2/17/13

Most recently, Udall has also co-sponsored the reauthorization the National Integrated Drought Information System:

Mark Udall joined Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides vital drought information to farmers, ranchers and other industries affected by weather conditions. The NIDIS program is a function of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The effects of climate change and the severe ongoing drought are readily apparent in Colorado, where we have experienced lower crop yields, increased fire hazards and the lack of snowpack in the high country. Improving our ability to forecast droughts will help farmers, ranchers and everyone who relies on water to better prepare for droughts' devastating effects. That is why I support the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System," Mark Udall said. "The National Integrated Drought Information System also is currently based in Boulder, taking advantage of Colorado's highly skilled workforce and supporting job creation in the area."

Since the NIDIS Act was signed into law, government agencies have worked to develop a long-term plan for drought prevention, research, and education. The Drought Information Act would extend this program for five years and support an interactive "early warning system" of timely and accurate drought information, as well an integrated weather monitoring and forecasting system. By increasing coordination with the USDA and private sector, this bill would also enhance the agriculture industry's involvement in the program. - Political News, 2/18/13

You have to give Udall credit for his continuous efforts to push through smart legislation that not only battles climate change but also promotes green jobs and smart conservation.  Even with an obstructionist GOP House, Udall refuses to give up.  Feel free to call Udall's office to thank him for his efforts and ask more about the pieces of legislation and how you can get your Senator and Congressman to back them:


And if you're a Colorado resident, feel free to call any of his local offices:

Clark: 303-650-7820

Greeley: 970-356-5586

Grand Junction: 970-245-9553

Denver: 303-650-7820

Pueblo: 719-542-1701

Durango: 970-247-1047

Colorado Springs: 719-471-3993

Alamosa: 719-589-2101

Also, Udall is certainly going to be a big target by the oil industry in 2014.  You can help him secure his re-election bid by donating to his 2014 campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 02:48 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Climate Hawks, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Colorado COmmunity.

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