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1st Hearing Held On Resolution To Transfer Federal Lands To Renewable Projects
An initial hearing was held this week on a U.S. House bill that could potentially transfer ownership of 8,000 acres of federal land in La Paz County for private development of renewable energy projects. The proposal has not yet gone to committee and already, one group is questioning the way it is being processed.
Originally proposed in late May by U.S. Rep. Gosar, House Resolution 2630, the “Land Exchange Bill to Foster Economic Development and Job Creation in Rural Arizona” was heard Wednesday by The House Natural Resources Committee.
Brett Hartl is with the Center for Biological Diversity. He says by law, the Bureau of Land Management has a process to handle disposal of land for economic development.
“When this happens, the taxpayers not only get full value for the land, but that we then turn around and take the financial compensation to acquire high priority conservation lands,” Hartl said.
Hartl says the way the bill is structured and been discussed to date is raising questions about how the public will be compensated and protected. Hartl says using the acreage for renewable projects is not a substitute for compensation.
“They are not saying why they are doing it. And they are not really explaining why they need to do it this way. ... So, we felt it was important to speak up early because otherwise, everyone is going to say it’s for renewable energy. It must be a good thing,” Hartl said.
According to Gosar’s website, HR 2630 is to spur economic growth of renewable energy projects, and partnering with private developers is helpful to the public interest. The site says it is a positive use of otherwise unused land and would add jobs to the area.