Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Department of the Interior Releases Desert Renewables Plan

The Department of the Interior released a draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) last week. The plan is a landscape-scale blueprint that is the result of an extensive public participation process, which included collaboration among the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and other stakeholders.

The public will have until January 2015 to provide additional comments on the draft plan, which includes lands in Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

The draft DRECP proposes to protect areas in the California desert important for wildlife, recreation and other uses while streamlining permitting in areas appropriate for siting of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects and associated transmission. The plan presents six alternative approaches for meeting renewable energy and conservation goals through 2040. Each alternative proposes a different conservation design and configuration of lands available for streamlined renewable energy permitting.

The plan also includes an analysis of the potential environmental impacts of these alternatives. The draft plan has three key components that support the goals of the DRECP including:
1) the BLM’s Land Use Plan Amendments would designate renewable energy development areas and promote conservation of wildlife, cultural, and recreational values in other areas, including by expanding National Conservation Lands, across the 10 million acres of public lands in the planning area;

2) the FWS’s General Conservation Plan would allow the FWS to streamline the permitting process for renewable energy applicants on non-federal lands that agree to comply with the terms and conditions of the General Conservation Plan; and

3) CDFW’s Natural Community Conservation Plan would identify and provide for the regional or area-wide protection of plants, animals, and their habitats, while allowing compatible and appropriate economic activity.  (Frank Maisano, DRECP)

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