Eight years of collaborative planning time, effort and expense are being swept aside by the recent decision of the U.S. Department of Interior to reopen the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). Broad and balanced stakeholder input and consensus are being disregarded in this ill-advised action. Direct effects on our Inyo County public lands are possible such as loss of land protections, public access and a predictable process for renewable energy development.
The DRECP effort sought to carefully craft land use planning in a landscape of chaos. Where should renewable energy be placed and where shouldn’t it through planned Development Focus Areas? What lands are important for public access? Which need protection as National Conservation Lands? After years of consensus building and extensive public vetting, these lands were designated and thought to be safely protected. Now we learn they are under threat. Furthermore, renewable energy developers no longer will have a predictable path for future projects.
The Trump Administration is no friend of renewable energy development. Wind and solar research and development funding has been cut. Fossil fuels, grazing, and mining dominate the administration’s public lands policy. Tariffs have been placed on imported solar panels. California, as a leader in renewable energy, will be hurt by amending DRECP. Its voice is not heard by the current Administration.
Here in Inyo County, the Board of Supervisors added a renewable energy amendment to their General Plan that reflected large public participation and opinions. Wind farm projects were opposed in the Highway 395 and Highway 190 corridors.
Industrial scale solar was opposed in iconic places like Centennial Flat, Conglomerate Mesa and Deep Springs Valley.
Inyo County Supervisors need to be thanked for their approval of the Renewable Energy Amendment to the General Plan. They supported, in general, the DRECP’s balance of conservation and development designations. Our Supervisors need to be asked to uphold their support for a plan for the desert that protects recreation and natural resources while allowing for appropriate siting of renewable energy.
From 5-7 pm on Monday, Feb 26th at the Film Museum in Lone Pine the BLM will host a public meeting to hear from you. You can also write to BLM at: BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825 or electronically to BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov.
The author, Michael Prather, is the Inyo County Water Commissioner.
Find the original article online at SierraWave.net.