Reid vows to champion clean energy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will prioritize legislation to boost renewable energy and infrastructure for clean water and transportation in his home state of Nevada over the next two years, he announced yesterday.

Creating "good-paying clean energy jobs" topped Reid's list of legislative priorities for Nevada in the 112th Congress, which he outlined during a press conference at the solar energy company Bombard Electric.

"My primary focus is to strengthen Nevada's competitiveness by creating good paying clean energy jobs that can't be shipped overseas, preparing our workforce to compete in the global economy and investing in Nevada's small businesses and entrepreneurs," Reid said in a statement.

Congress can support that goal by approving policies that facilitate the expansion of the state's transmission capacity for renewable energy and extending production and investment tax incentives, Reid said. He also sees opportunities for the state through investment in clean energy research and "promoting solar and wind projects on appropriate public lands," according to a statement from his office.

Reid introduced a series of bills last session to incentivize the construction of new transmission lines to carry renewable energy, including stronger federal siting authority and allowing projects to qualify for clean renewable energy bonds and the Agriculture Department energy loan program. Wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy are often located in remote areas where power lines do not reach yet. The addition of new lines could remove a substantial barrier to the growth of renewable generation, resolving a "chicken and egg" quandary that transmission owners and renewable energy generators face.

Infrastructure jobs and projects also placed high on Reid's priority list. Reid promised to "continue leveraging his leadership position to improve Nevada's clean water infrastructure to provide communities and businesses with reliable, healthy water supplies, as well as prepare for emergencies like prolonged drought and flooding."

Reid may need his boxing gloves from his former profession to fulfill his promise to "fight to ensure that Nevada get its fair share of transportation funding" in the next highway reauthorization bill. The six-year highway transportation reauthorization bill expired in September 2009 and has been kept alive through short-term extensions, most recently through March. The bill's size and funding will be the subject of considerable controversy between Republicans and Democrats.

Also on Reid's "to do" list is the continued blocking of any funding to restart the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and the protection of Nevada's wildlife habitats and species including the sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat trout and the desert bighorn sheep.

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