This article, which was published in Recharge News and is reprinted below in its entirety, talks about potential amendments to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which was finalized in 2016. When finalized, the DRECP amended the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA Plan) which was originally finalized in 1980 (it was amended multiple times between 1980 and 1999). It supplied the most significant update to the CDCA Plan in over 35 years. Now it appears the DRECP itself is being amended not long after it was originally finalized. The following website has more information on the DRECP, note that it's not a BLM website. http://www.drecp.org/. The BLM website for the DRECP is here https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=dispatchToPatternPage¤tPageId=95675.
The NOI to amend the DRECP and prepare an EIS was published in the Federal Register on February 2, 2018. A 45 day public scoping period will allow the public the opportunity to comment on this. As discussed below, this potentially will open up areas within the California desert that were closed in the DRECP to new renewable energy development including wind. This is good news for wind, solar, and geothermal energy developers.
"As part its ‘American energy dominance’ agenda, US President Donald Trump’s administration unexpectedly announced it will review the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), an Obama-era plan that imposed restrictions on where solar and wind projects can be built in the California desert.
The Interior Department says it will shortly kick off a 45-day public comment period, potentially leading to amendments to the DRECP that could spark a wave of renewables development in southern California.
The explicit intention in reopening the DRECP is “to seek greater opportunities for renewable energy generation”, says the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“We need to reduce burdens on all domestic energy development, including solar, wind and other renewables,” Katharine MacGregor, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals, said in a statement.
Changes to the DRECP could also make it easier to bring wireless broadband to rural areas, the government says.
The announcement highlights the irony that despite Trump’s apparent hostility towards renewables and his love of “beautiful clean coal”, his policies aimed at cutting red tape and boosting energy investment could prove a boon for renewables in some places. Nearly all of the power-generating capacity added these days in the US comes from wind, solar and gas-fired plants.
The renewables industry welcomed the Trump administration's review.
"We’ll see how this initiative evolves, but this is an encouraging signal from an Administration that has, until now, shown little support for the renewable energy part of 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy," says Gregory Wetstone, chief executive of the American Council on Renewable Energy.
"It makes great sense to revisit the DRECP as California strives for ambitious renewable and climate goals," Wetstone says. "Responsibly sited wind and solar projects in the plan area could provide millions of Californians with cheap, emissions-free electricity.”
Unveiled in 2016, and covering 10.8 million acres (43,000 sq km) of BLM-managed public land, the Obama administration’s DRECP sought to strike a balance between renewables development in southern California’s interior desert region and conservationists’ desire to preserve the land for other uses.
Announced after eight years of planning and public engagement, the DRECP would “support streamlined renewables development in the right places”, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell claimed in 2016.
But the plan immediately proved a rare point of friction between the Obama administration and the renewables industry, with both the solar and wind sectors arguing it left far too little land available for development – especially considering California’s ambitious ambitious green agenda.
California’s investor-owned utilities are required to source 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030.
While California’s deserts are a natural fit for utility-scale solar development – and are home to many of the world’s largest operating projects – the state’s wind industry, in particular, has been throttled in recent years by a lack of available sites.
Just 7% of the land included in the DRECP was made available for renewables leasing, and the California Wind Energy Association has estimated that the plan would allow for no more than 1GW of new wind development in the affected region.
As recently as 2014, California was the number-two state behind Texas in installed wind capacity, but the Golden State has added virtually no new capacity to its existing 6GW in recent years. It now trails Oklahoma and Iowa in wind capacity, and looks set to fall behind a host of other far less populous states in the coming years, including Kansas and Illinois.
The BLM – which manages more than 245 million acres of public lands, primarily in a dozen western states – has long been a target for criticism for Republicans who want it to open more federal lands to energy and mining development."