About 17 months after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management adopted the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which applies to about 10.8 million acres of Southern California desert, the current administration wants to consider changes to the plan.
Earlier this month, BLM announced it would consider recommendations to amend the plan to allow more opportunities for renewable energy generation. Five days later, on Feb. 6, BLM then announced that its application to withdraw about 1.3 million acres from entry under mining laws had been canceled.
The press release announcing the cancellation of the protections from future mining projects stated, “The BLM concluded that impacts of future mineral exploration and mining, subject to existing environmental regulations, do not pose a significant threat to the protection of cultural, biological and scientific values.”
These lands are still within the DRECP and, according to the release, about 19,500 acres, or 1.5 percent, are already subject to a mining claim.
The original withdrawal was made in December 2016 after adoption of the DRECP. In the latest release, Jerome Perez, the BLM California state director, said, “Based on the likelihood that there would be little significant mining-related disturbance to these lands and the BLM’s regulatory authority governing any mining operations that might occur, withdrawal at such a large scale does not appear to be necessary to achieve the purpose for which the national conservation lands were designated.”
Speaking to the review of expanding renewal energy opportunities in the California desert, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Katharine MacGregor said, “We need to reduce burdens on all domestic energy development, including solar, wind and other renewables. This process will help us find ways to make more federal land available for renewable energy projects as well as wireless broadband infrastructure.”
This decision was made in response to executive orders from President Donald Trump. Executive Order 13783, issued March 28, 2017, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” directs agencies to review all actions that could “potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy sources.”
Renewable energy associations and local governments expressed concerns to the Department of the Interior that the DRECP did not designate enough public lands for future renewable energy development. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors and the Blythe Council said the regulatory burdens created by the DRECP would make projects too costly to build, put undue pressure on private lands, and inhibit economic growth and job creation, according to the BLM release.
BLM will host eight public scoping meetings to hear views about the proposals amending the land use plans that underlie the DRECP.
The closest meeting to Idyllwild will be 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at the University of California, Riverside, Palm Desert Center Auditorium on 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive in Palm Desert.
Written comments may also be submitted until March 22 to the BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Rm W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825, or electronically to BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov.