In order to meet renewable energy goals set by California and in order to comply with executive orders from President Donald Trump, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering making changes to its Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).
BLM held a meeting in Ridgecrest at the Kerr McGee Center on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The goal was to inform the public of the potential change and encourage the public to submit comments. There is no official draft of plan changes yet, and it's not even certain if BLM will make any changes. At the moment, they're collecting public feedback.
DRECP is a plan that covers 22.5 million acres of desert region in California, including land in or adjacent to the counties of Kern, Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego.
Within that 22.5 million acre coverage, BLM manages about 11 million acres of desert land. It has seven field offices throughout that area, including one in Ridgecrest.
Jeremiah Karuzas, renewable energy program manager with BLM California, gave a presentation during the meeting on Feb. 27. According to his presentation, the goal of DRECP is to support streamlined energy development while also providing a conservation strategy.
"It's the information we get from you guys that helps us determine our path going forward," Karuzas said.
In his presentation, Karuzas showed maps which detailed where the current plan designates areas for conservation, recreation, and renewable energy. The renewable energy slide stated that there are currently 388,000 transmission-aligned acres identified for solar, wind, or geothermal development, and 40,000 acres that are potentially available for renewable energy development.
Following a question from an audience member, Karuzas said that BLM would try to have the presentation and maps available online by the end of this week.
Karuzas said that there are essentially three reasons BLM is considering changes to DRECP.
First, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger mandated that California get 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and current governor Jerry Brown increased that number to 50 percent by 2030.
"We've been hearing a little bit of feedback that some of the items within the plan are causing some degree of difficulty and obstacles in meeting this energy goal," Karuzas said.
According to his presentation, the two other reasons are due to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump.
The first is Executive Order 13783, which the presentation said directs federal agencies, such as the BLM, to review all actions that could potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.
The other is Executive Order 13821, which directs federal agencies to reduce barriers to capital investment, remove obstacles to broadband services, and more efficiently employ government resources to foster rural broadband infrastructure.
Ridgecrest was only the second stop in an eight-stop tour BLM is making across areas in California in order to inform people about the potential change and encourage people to make comments.
At the Feb. 27 meeting, BLM had set up stations with maps and staff to explain the intricacies of the various aspects of the plan, such as conservation, recreation, renewable energy, mining, and so on. Once the presentation ended, attendees could peruse the stations and speak with the staff on hand about questions or concerns they had.
However, BLM also seeks comments from those who were not in attendance. According to the presentation, they encourage commenters to point out issues, management questions, or concerns about the plan and any potential changes the commenter would like to see happen or would like to see avoided.
According to the presentation, comments can be emailed to BLM_CA_DRECO@blm.gov, submitted electronically at their ePlanning site at BLM.gov/eplanDRECP, or sent via U.S. mail to BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Rm W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825.
Karuzas said comments must be submitted by March 22, 2018.