Draft desert renewable energy conservation plan released for public review

Following a joint effort, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the California Natural Resources Agency released the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) for public comment on September 26, 2014. This plan is intended to facilitate streamlined permitting of renewable energy projects on federal and non-federal land while ensuring the conservation of sensitive ecologic desert resources on over 22 million acres of California desert. The Plan emphasizes a “landscape” level approach to planning for renewable resource development, as opposed to project-by-project and species-by-species level review.

The DRECP addresses numerous renewable resources, including solar (photovoltaic and thermal), wind, and geothermal. In addition, the plan covers a broad scope of activities associated with the development of renewable resources, such as construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of projects, as well as activities related to transmission lines in the covered areas. Further, the plan identifies numerous proposed “covered species.” These plant and animal species will be the subject of a long-term “take” permit for projects that proceed in a manner consistent with the DRECP.

Currently, the draft DRECP identifies six alternative approaches for meeting renewable energy and conservation goals through 2040. Key components of the plan include designation of renewable energy development areas by BLM, a general conservation plan allowing streamlined permitting by FWS, and a natural community conservation plan developed by the California DFW, which will identify regional or area-wide protections for plants and animals while allowing compatible economic activity.

Public comment on the draft will run through January 9, 2015. More information is available at the official website for the DRECP: <www.drecp.org>