This vote was on a motion to kill an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would specify that nothing in the bill would restrict the ability to develop renewable energy on public lands. The amendment was offered to a bill that would expand wilderness areas and national parks by more than 2 million acres.
Coburn said without his amendment, enormous swaths of land would be significantly restricted from being used to generate geothermal energy.
“Ninety percent of the geothermal capability in this country lies on Federal lands. What we are doing in this bill is not thinking about what we are going to do on transmission lines, not thinking how we are going to bring solar, wind, and geothermal, as well as biomass, to the population centers of this country,” Coburn said “All this amendment does is say we are not going to allow it to prohibit our utilization of geothermal, our utilization of solar, and our utilization of wind by what we are doing in the bill.”
Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said he opposes the amendment because it would open up protected wilderness areas, parks, wild and scenic rivers designated in the bill to “potential development of new energy projects, renewable energy projects, as well as the associated facilities that go with those such as transmission lines, generating stations, access roads,” Bingaman said.
“There are 2 million acres of new wilderness area here. We do not want wind farms in those wilderness areas. There are over 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers. We do not want hydroelectric power plants on those wild and scenic rivers. I think this would be a major mistake for us to make an exception and say that renewable energy sources should go in regardless of the designation in the bill,” Bingaman said.
The Senate passed the motion by a vote of 65-33. Of Republicans present, 9 voted for the motion and 32 voted against it. All but one Democrat present voted for the motion. The end result is that the motion carried, the amendment was defeated, and the bill went forward without language stipulating that newly protected public lands in the bill could be used for the development of renewable energy.