Bill would add more land for solar power development – Parker Pioneer
The office of U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., wants to make La Paz County residents aware of a bill making its way through Congress that will affect our county. The La Paz County Solar Energy and Job Creation Act, S.528, was introduced by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema on March 2. Kelly is one of the co-sponsors.
If approved and signed into law, the bill would convey 4,800 acres of federal lands to the county for solar power development. Arielle Devorah, a spokesperson for Kelly’s office, said this would be in addition to the Bureau of Land Management land that was conveyed to the county in 2019.
“The previous conveyance was about half the land needed,” Devorah said. “This conveyance is the other half, Phase 2, which would help complete the existing project that is still under development.”
Hearings on the bill are being conducted in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Kelly spoke in favor of the bill before the committee on Oct. 19.
The bill was summarized as follows by the Congressional Research Service:
La Paz County Solar Energy and Job Creation Act
This bill directs the Department of the Interior, after receiving a request from La Paz County, Arizona, to convey approximately 4,800 acres of identified land managed by the Bureau of Land Management to the county.
Interior shall exclude from the conveyance any federal land that contains significant cultural, environmental, wildlife, or recreational resources.
As a condition of the conveyance, La Paz County and any subsequent owner shall
- make good faith efforts to avoid disturbing tribal artifacts;
- minimize impacts on tribal artifacts if they are disturbed;
- coordinate with the Colorado River Indian Tribes Tribal Historic Preservation Office to identify artifacts of cultural and historic significance; and
- allow tribal representatives to rebury unearthed artifacts at, or near, where they were discovered.
The federal land is withdrawn from the operation of U.S. mining and mineral leasing laws.
A similar bill, H.R. 1499, is making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. It has the same name as the Senate bill, and was also introduced on March 2. Its sponsor is Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican whose district includes La Paz County. Three Arizona Republicans, Andy Biggs, David Schweikert and Debbie Lesko, are co-sponsors.
In his remarks to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Kelly said he and Sinema said they had introduced the bill because it could lead to the largest solar project in the nation as far as producing electricity.
The project, Kelly said, would build a 1,500 megawatt facility that would produce enough power for 500,000 homes. He said it was designed to tie into the proposed Ten West Link transmission line, which will move renewable energy between Arizona and California.
Kelly said this would be a significant addition to solar projects that have been built on federal land. He added this would be a major step for creating good jobs for La Paz County and for bringing economic opportunity to Arizona.
The land involved in the bill is in eastern La Paz County. The county had sought this land to use for solar energy development for some time. It’s located near the proposed route of the Ten West Link transmission line, which will carry power from Arizona to California.
In 2019, 5,900 acres of land held by the BLM was conveyed to the county. The land was officially turned over to the county in 2020.
Members of Arizona’s Congressional Delegation worked with the county, BLM, and the Department of the Interior to have the land conveyed to the county. The conveyance was approved by the passage of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Recreation and Management Act. It was signed by President Donald Trump on March 12, 2019.
In March 2020, La Paz County signed an agreement with 174 Power Global, a South Korean company, to build a solar energy facility on 4,000 acres of the land conveyed by BLM. At 850 megawatts, it will be the largest solar project in the nation. It’s estimated 800 to 1,000 construction jobs will be created, with the facility producing enough power for 300,000 homes.