A Coachella Valley lawmaker released a letter Friday in opposition of the Department of the Interior’s plans to amend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in pursuit of developing energy projects in the open desert.

Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, authored the letter sent to the Bureau of Land Management’s California State Director Jerome Perez, urging the agency not to alter the conservation plan, which designates more than 10 million acres for conservation and recreation.

The Bureau of Land Management announced in February that it would seek to revamp the DRECP, which the BLM said placed too many barriers in the way of energy development, with not enough public land provided for energy projects.

“We need to reduce burdens on all domestic energy development, including solar, wind and other renewables,” the Department of the Interior’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Katharine MacGregor said in BLM’s February announcement. “This process will help us find ways to make more federal land available for renewable energy projects as well as wireless broadband infrastructure.”

Ruiz and 37 other House Democrats who signed this week’s letter, argue that altering the plan would jeopardize California’s ability to meet climate change goals and harm local habitats and the public’s access to the land, while the DRECP already provides more than 388,000 acres for renewable energy development.

Ruiz’s letter states that those 388,000 acres represent “the most public land set aside for renewable energy development in any public land management plan to date” and that the plan was designed to make permitting energy projects on public land more efficient.

“The DRECP is not just a regional conservation issue — it is an example of pragmatic problem-solving and the democratic process working to create a sustainable future for our state and our desert,” Ruiz said. “I am very concerned that the president is threatening to undermine the DRECP, harming the thousands of tourism and recreation jobs it protects and slowing down the development of renewable energy projects in the future. Furthermore, this proposal completely disregards the eight years of hard work and consensus-building by hundreds of stakeholders and thousands of my constituents without legitimate reason.”

Ruiz also claims that the 45-day public comment period and eight public hearings was insufficient in addressing the public’s potential concerns with the overhaul, “given the complexity of the issue and the thousands of hours of public input that went into finalizing the plan 18 months ago.”

Ruiz will host a 1:30 p.m. Saturday public meeting at the Oliphant Auditorium of the CSUSB Palm Desert campus, 37500 Cook Street, during which residents are urged to voice their comments and questions, which he will pass along to the Department of the Interior.

To reserve a seat at Saturday’s meeting, RSVP with Ross Arnett by email at Ross.Arnett@mail.house.gov.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.