U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird announced Nov. 10 the final environmental review of a blueprint to support renewable energy development and conservation on 10 million acres of federal public lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the California desert.
The release of the final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase I of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a major step forward in the collaborative effort to streamline renewable energy while conserving valuable desert ecosystems and promoting outdoor recreation, Interior said in a news release.
The blueprint is part of a larger, comprehensive effort with California, covering 22 million acres in the state’s desert region. Collectively, these lands contain the potential to generate up to 20,000 MW of renewable energy development, which would meet federal and state renewable goals through 2040.
The overall planning effort began in 2008, shortly after the desert region began experiencing a surge of applications for renewable energy projects. At that time, most applications for renewable energy projects were reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.
An informational webinar will be held on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 10:00-11:30 a.m. to present DRECP concepts and changes between the draft and final plans. Webinar details are available at www.drecp.org and www.blm.gov/ca/drecp.
“Using a landscape-level perspective, unprecedented collaboration and extensive public engagement, this phase of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will facilitate clean energy development, creating new jobs while cutting carbon pollution,” Secretary Jewell said. “This strategy provides effective protection and conservation for wildlife, recreation and cultural resources, while encouraging streamlined renewable energy development in the right places.”
“The state of California has worked closely for years with the U.S. Department of the Interior to reach this milestone,” Laird said.
Phase I of the DRECP, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, designates Development Focus Areas with high-quality solar, wind and geothermal energy potential, access to transmission and would allow impacts to be managed and mitigated. Applications will benefit from a streamlined permitting process with predictable survey requirements and simplified mitigation measures, and Interior is considering additional financial incentives through an ongoing rulemaking process.
The first phase also identifies National Conservation Lands, and designates Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, wildlife allocations and National Scenic and Historic Trail management corridors to conserve biological, cultural and other values.
Special Recreation Management Areas and Extensive Recreation Management Areas are identified to recognize and promote recreational opportunities and public access. These lands would be closed to renewable energy and benefit from adaptive management in the face of climate change, officials said.
The non-federal land component of the DRECP, Phase II, is ongoing, led by California and includes close coordination among federal, state, county and private land partners. The counties include Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.