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They're baaack

By Stefanie Dazio Herald staff writer

WASHINGTON – Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act in the last week, but it's not this bill's first time around the block.

It was first introduced in the 112th Congress but never came to the Senate floor for a vote. When the 112th Congress ended in January, the bill died with it.

But Udall and Bennet, along with several other bipartisan co-sponsors, resurrected it.

The bill would make it easier to begin renewable-energy projects on federal lands, according to a news release.

Many bills never make it to the president's desk – or even to the House and Senate floors – and languish in committees. At the end of the Congress, these bills automatically die, and lawmakers must start from scratch in the next Congress.

Here are several other bills that members of the Colorado delegation have reintroduced or plan to bring back in the 113th Congress:

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez

Tipton's Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act passed the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress but only received a Senate hearing during that term.

He reintroduced it last week with a companion bill in the Senate. The bill would simplify the regulatory process, reduce administrative costs for small hydropower development and create rural jobs, according to a news release.

Tipton also will reintroduce the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act, which was introduced in July and died without coming to the House floor for a vote. This bill would increase state control over forest management in federal lands and allow governors to designate areas as “high risk” and take collaborative action with federal officials to prevent wildfires.

Tipton also is looking to reintroduce the Planning for American Energy Act, which was passed with several other bills under the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act in the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress. The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act was not taken up in the Senate.

Tipton plans to reintroduce the Planning for American Energy Act as a standalone bill in this Congress, said his spokesman Josh Green. The bill would have the secretary of the Interior establish an “all-of-the-above” energy plan on federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. It would give every energy sector equal footing based on the public's needs and encourage natural-gas as well as renewable-energy development, Green said.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

Udall plans to reintroduce the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act on Thursday, another bill that was co-sponsored by Bennet in the 112th Congress. It was introduced in September 2011 but died in committee. The bill includes designating certain lands in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests as wilderness, which is the highest level of protection federal lands can have, said Udall spokesman Mike Saccone. The land's existing uses would be allowed to continue, but no new uses that would disturb the land would be permissible.

Udall also plans to reintroduce the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act, also known as the BEER Act. It was introduced in May 2011 but died in committee. Bennet was a co-sponsor. The bill would lower the excise tax paid by brewers. Durango is home to several craft breweries.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Bennet will reintroduce the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, which died in committee in July. Udall co-sponsored the bill in the 112th Congress. The bill would protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed, said Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi. The area is north of Durango in the San Juan National Forest.

Bennet also plans to reintroduce a bill that would require the Department of Education to pay the costs of tuition waivers for out-of-state Native American students at Fort Lewis College. The bill died in committee in March 2011. Udall was a co-sponsor.

Both Bennet and Tipton plan to take up the issue of television access in the Four Corners in their respective chambers in this Congress. Tipton introduced a bill in April that would have allowed Southwest Colorado to receive Denver-based TV stations, but the bill died in committee. U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, and Jared Polis, D-Boulder, were co-sponsors.

Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. You can reach her at sdazio@durangoherald.com.

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