Senate committee passes improved, bipartisan energy bill

California's famous Hot Creek could be affected by proposed geothermal energy projects.


By Max McDermott

Late last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee wrapped up its third and final day of markup on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, a bill that contains several measures of interest to Trout Unlimited and sportsmen and women across the country.

Members demonstrated an obvious commitment to moving a bipartisan package forward. Complex issues like hydropower could have easily derailed the conversation, but a collaborative atmosphere prevailed throughout.

After tribes, federal agencies, Trout Unlimited and other river-rooted groups raised alarm about language in the bill that undermined critical protections for rivers affected by hydroelectric development, the committee reconsidered and quickly approved an amendment to strike the most troubling provisions. This is a significant and positive development that will help ensure responsible river management in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Senators Murkowski and Cantwell both deserve our thanks.

The markup also provided a forum for further progress on the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act, a conservation-oriented and bipartisan renewable energy bill. Offered as an amendment by Senators Risch, Heinrich, Gardner and Daines, it would improve the siting and permitting process for wind, solar and geothermal energy projects on public lands. The bill would also provide for fish and wildlife habitat restoration and enhanced access for sportsmen.

Based on feedback provided by committee staff on both sides of the aisle, and in the interest of improving certain provisions, the amendment was ultimately withdrawn. TU commends Senators Risch and Heinrich for offering the amendment, and hopes that Committee leadership will prioritize consideration of this proposal when the Energy Policy Modernization Act moves to the Senate floor.

Finally, the vital effort to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) before it expires received a notable boost from the new bill. The committee included breakthrough language that will permanently reauthorize the LWCF—one of the nation’s most effective fish and wildlife conservation tools. A permanent reauthorization will ensure this fund continues to support fish habitat investment and restoration into the future.

There is still work to be done as this bill moves to the full Senate for consideration. But for now, we thank the members of the Senate Energy Natural Resources committee and their staff for their work on these provisions. Getting it right will require thoughtful consideration of the issues and deliberate engagement of constituents; TU will continue to engage with the committee to help strengthen the bill as it moves forward.

Max McDermott is an intern with the TU government affairs team in Washington, DC. A Seattle native and recent graduate of Western Washington University, he's been chasing salmon, trout and steelhead throughout the West since childhood, fly rod in hand.

Photo: "Mammoth Hot Creek Panorama" by Photographersnature - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -



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