The Alliance for Desert Preservation has submitted a comment to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) calling attention to two serious defects in the plan that could render the entire Draft DRECP voidable.
The first is the fact that there is a hidden landmine in the DRECP. On its face, the DRECP would apply to a 22.5-million-acre zone, specifically mapped and carefully delineated in the proposed plan. However—and this is the landmine—an exhaustive scrutiny of the Plan document shows that the DRECP in fact proposes to craft a global land-use amendment for large portions of the California desert outside, as well as inside, the DRECP area. In fact, the land-use amendment contemplated by the DRECP would apply to the entire California Desert Conservation Area. These would not be minor tweaks. “These (amendments) would entirely overhaul and supplant…land-use designations that have been in place for more than 30 years,” writes Alliance President Richard Ravana in the statement submitted to the California Energy Commission.
In short, the DRECP, which is purportedly a plan to harmonize renewable energy with conservation values in the DRECP area, is reaching far beyond that to totally restructure land-use designations throughout the entire California Desert Conservation Area, whether or not the proposed land-use designations are prompted by any attempt to balance renewable energy development with conservation and other land-use values.
The official notices inviting public comment filed by the BLM and the California Energy Commission do little to call attention to this radical disconnect between the purported purpose and the actual effect of the DRECP. Therefore the vigorous public comment that one would expect for the first major overhaul of the CDCA land-use plan in 30 years has mostly not materialized. People simply do not realize what is at stake, because the DRECP governmental sponsors have not been clear.
Failure to remedy that defect by way of restarting the public comment process would, according to the Alliance, expose the DRECP to being voided by judicial decision far down the road, resulting in an enormous squandering of time, energy, and money by everyone who has participated in the process. The solution, urges the Alliance, is for the BLM and CEC to fashion a new notice, this time clearly spelling out the extraordinary geographic and substantive scope of the proposed land-use plan amendment, and to restart the public comment period.
The other defect pertains to the pending revision of the West Mojave Plan (WEMO), a process concurrently under way that is considering new route designations for motorized vehicle access on 9.3 million acres of California desert—primarily to protect habitat for the desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel, and other sensitive plants and animals.
Because the WEMO lands largely overlap with the DRECP lands, the two plans closely interconnect. Renewable energy projects in the DRECP and vehicle routes in WEMO could potentially conflict. But it will be impossible for the public to read, absorb, and comment on these interactions because the public comment period for the DRECP is ending on February 23—and the WEMO Plan has yet to be issued.
The Alliance for Desert Preservation contends that the DRECP public comment period therefore must be extended to 60 days after the release of the WEMO Plan.
“To be avoided at all costs is an approach to the DRECP public comment process that excludes important and meaningful input,” Ravana concludes in the Alliance letter.