The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). However, clean energy advocates are arguing that the new plan, which has been developed over the past eight years, will effectively end development of renewable energy on millions of acres of federally managed lands in Southern California.
The plan, according to a coalition of renewable energy advocates and labor groups including the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA), the California & Nevada State Association of Electrical Workers, Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), will “Significantly and permanently limit solar and wind energy development” on the lands under the DRECP. They further charge that the plan goes against an initial promise to balance renewable energy deployment and preservation of desert land.
“With today's release of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, the Interior Department and BLM missed a golden opportunity to balance the preservation of parts of the California desert with clean, renewable energy development across some of America's richest renewable resource areas,” said Tom Kimbis, acting president of SEIA. “The Obama administration is unparalleled in its support for renewables, but this plan permanently locks up some of our greatest untapped solar and wind resources, and chooses regulation over innovation and progress.”
In developing the DRECP, the BLM studied nearly 11 million acres of public land. Previously roughly 3 million acres were available for solar and wind development. Under the DRECP that’s shrunk to less than 388,000 acres for renewable energy, according to the coalition.
“No one is saying that utility-scale renewable energy should go everywhere, but done responsibly and with safeguards, it does have to go somewhere if we are to meet state, national, and global carbon-reduction goals,” contested Nancy Rader, executive director of CalWEA. “The broad-scale ban on wind-energy development represented by the BLM’s plan indicates an unwillingness to confront the reality of our climate-change predicament.”
There is a possibility that more lands for clean energy development could be identified in a ‘Phase 2’ of the DRECP, however, the group expressed skepticism. They said the focus of that phase will primarily be on private lands and they expect little coordination between the BLM and counties.
The coalition also expressed concern that not allowing clean energy development on these lands could “hamstring existing state and federal environmental goals, as well as any future, more ambitious goals” that could take clean energy to new heights in the US.
“The DRECP has simply failed to adapt to enormous changes in law and policy that mandate a significant and urgent increase in renewable energy development on public lands and elsewhere,” contended Shannon Eddy, executive director of LSA. "The DRECP issued by the BLM today is a Model T in a Tesla world. Rather than fostering sustainable clean energy development as a part of a conservation plan, it severely restricts wind and solar.”Tweet