Feds roll out conservation, energy plan for Calif. desert

Feds roll out conservation, energy plan for Calif. desert
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Federal officials laid out a comprehensive plan for a massive swath of California’s desert Wednesday, aimed at balancing energy and conservation needs.

The plan unveiled by Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellNational parks pay the price for Trump's Independence Day spectacle Overnight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone MORE covers management of the 10.8 million acres of federal land in the desert, with areas set aside for up to 27 gigawatts of renewable energy like solar and wind power, and significant protections for other areas.

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The effort is eight years in the making and a massive undertaking by federal, state and local governments, as well as private landowners.

“This landscape-level plan will support streamlined renewable energy development in the right places while protecting sensitive ecosystems, preserving important cultural heritage and supporting outdoor recreation opportunities,” Jewell said in a statement.

The plan, dubbed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), is meant in part to ease the permitting process for renewable energy projects, while balancing them with conservation and recreation.

But the solar power industry blasted the plan, saying it puts unnecessary limits on the industry’s potential.

“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,” Shannon Eddy, executive director of Large-Scale Solar Association, said in a statement.

"The DRECP issued by the [Bureau of Land Management] 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.”

But conservationists said the federal government struck a good balance.

“The DRECP is a science-based, collaborative roadmap for siting renewable energy on public lands in places that will have less ecological impact, so we can address the causes of climate change while still protecting the desert,” said Erica Brand, California program director at the Nature Conservancy.