The Biden administration announced that its U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will not proceed with an eleventh-hour move by the former Trump administration to undermine the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).
In 2016, the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed the first phase of the DRECP, focused on 10.8 million acres of public lands in the desert regions of seven California counties. The DOI said the DRECP is a landscape-level plan that streamlines renewable energy development while conserving unique and valuable desert ecosystems and providing outdoor recreation opportunities.
The DRECP is a collaborative effort between the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Energy Commission (CEC).
However, in the final days of Trump’s presidency, his administration’s DOI proposed changes to the plan that the CEC, environmental groups, and other DRECP stakeholders denounced as destructive.
In a statement, Biden’s DOI said the Trump administration moved to scrap the plan, thereby undermining opportunities for renewable energy development and enduring conservation measures. In a Federal Register notice to be published in the coming days, the DOI will formally revoke the BLM’s comment period on the Trump administration’s draft environmental impact statement to amend the DRECP.
Laura Daniel Davis, the DOI’s principal deputy assistant secretary of land and minerals management, said the DRECP represents a years-long and “unprecedented partnership” between the federal government, the State of California, Tribal Nations, and other parties.
She called the Trump administration’s proposal to reopen the plan “unnecessary” and “at odds with balanced land management.”
She added, “We look forward to renewing our partnership with the state to build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, addresses climate change, and conserves public lands for current and future generations.”
Commissioner Karen Douglas said the CEC was “pleased” to hear that the DOI had preserved the DRECP, thus protecting public lands and wildlife while ensuring California can reach its 100% by 2045 renewable energy target.
The Sierra Club also applauded the Biden administration’s choice to keep the DRECP intact.
Jenny Binstock, senior campaign representative for the environmental group’s Our Wild America Campaign in California, said the plan will “continue to serve as a landmark model” for balanced conservation and clean energy development.
As part of a government-wide approach to fighting climate change, President Biden ordered the DOI in late January to help boost responsible renewable energy development on public lands. Citing that directive, the DOI recently advanced a 350 MW solar project proposed for the California desert.
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