Federal Officials Seek to Weaken Desert Renewables Deal

By Published On: January 14, 2021

The Trump Administration just poked one more, perhaps final finger in California’s eye by proposing changes to the complex, stakeholder-developed plan identifying suitable sites for wind and solar development on public lands in the state’s southeastern desert. The Jan. 13 amendments to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan would open more lands to off-road vehicles, mining, livestock grazing, recreation and rural broadband, arousing protests. The lands are under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management.

“This proposal is a parting gift to harmful development interests, undermining planning for climate solutions when they are needed most,” said Jenny Binstock, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club. Bureau changes would reduce protection of 2.2 million acres of rocky peaks, saltscrub lowlands and rich riparian corridors, she warned.

The desert conservation plan made available only 4% of 10.8 million acres managed by the BLM for renewable energy development, complained Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. She said the proposed changes would “add over 800,000 acres for renewable energy development,” and ease the way for multiple uses of the land. Several of these uses are ecologically destructive.

The desert conservation plan, developed over eight years, is an important part of California’s efforts to meet its “ambitious climate and renewable energy goals,” California Energy Commission member Karen Douglas responded.

The Commission looks forward to working closely with the Biden administration to set aside these Bureau amendments and partner with the state “to reinvigorate our longstanding partnership with BLM and other federal agencies to advance our mutual environmental goals,” she said.

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