Posted April 20, 2013
Federal & State "Conservation Plan"
Guts Environmental Protections
High Desert sleeps as major plan develops.
Streamlining the environmental review process to ignore
many environmental issues and to fast track desert alternative energy projects is the aim of the
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The plan is expected to have
a high negative impact to the California deserts, including areas adjacent Newberry Springs.
DRECP is an enormous and unwieldy plan by the California
Energy Commission, the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to regulate 22.5-million
acres of federal and non-federal California desert land in seven counties, including Imperial,
Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego, in order to fast track
alternative energy developments with minimal environmental review and oversight.
The DRECP is being pushed by the Obama Administration that wants
a rapid expansion of alternative energy installations during Obama's last term in office.
The Administration sees the gutting of federal and state environmental protections as a
necessary measure to allow developers a better means to forecast construction expenses
The plan, which has been several years in the making, preselects
large areas for fast tracking solar, wind and thermal energy development
by the prior acceptance of the environmental impacts that such projects
To assist from Sacramento, the state Senate is working on reforming
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with Senate Bill 731. The state's assault upon
the environmental laws are being fronted by the California Chamber of Commerce and the
California Manufacturers and Technology Association who claim that the environmental laws
are creating lawsuits that are hampering California's development. The two associations
are financially backed by national and foreign special interests who are
set to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profits with fast tracking. Other
backers include sports stadium developers and transportation interests.
Watching with a very weary eye from San Bernardino county is
the Newberry Springs Community Alliance and other groups, the largest contingent of county
citizens being from the Morongo Valley area. Together their numbers are very limited
as the plan is largely unknown. Larger state and national groups, such as the
Sierra Club and the National Park Conservation Association have also been monitoring
the progress of the plan; however their clout is limited against the political money involved.
Currently, the plan is in its development stage. On
April 16, 2013, a DRECP "workshop" was held before the San Bernardino County Board of
Supervisors in their county board room. The program commenced with DRECP organizers
making a presentation before the supervisors followed by public speakers for and against
The DRECP comprises the majority of San Bernardino county's
desert and includes much of the First and Third Supervisor Districts.
The two supervisor seats are held by two newly elected supervisors, Robert A. Lovingood
and James Ramos.
The comments by both of the supervisors were in startling
contrast to the pre-November positions of the board. It was revitalizing to hear the two
current supervisors side together with the county residents to question the developing mechanics
of the plan.
The DRECP organizers previously held a public meeting for citizens' input
in Ontario because of the convenience of the airport for the federal and state agencies.
Ontario is in Supervisor Gary Ovitt's Fourth District which is not impacted by the plan and
is a great distance from the desert's residential stakeholders in Morongo Valley, Needles, Baker,
and elsewhere. In voicing concern over their constituents inability to travel distances to
attend such meetings, the supervisors received repeated applause from the gallery.
The future benefactor projects of this plan will adversely affect hundreds
of thousands of acres of desert land for the installation of technologies that opponents claim
will be obsolete soon into the projects' lifespan, leaving electric ratepayers, and a
slow-to-recover scared desert, stuck with the results.
Opposition further stated that photovoltaic installations would be
better placed upon the roofs of the end-users, such as the vast industrial roofs in Supervior
Gary Ovitt's Ontario district; and question why the county would want to support
a plan that would limit its authority upon future developments.
Immediately after the 90-minute workshop, the Community Alliance
attempted to acquire a copy of the meeting's video in order to present portions with this article;
only to learn that despite the chamber's video working, no 99-cent DVD was inserted for recording.
This is disappointing because supervisors Lovingood and Ramos excelled for their constituents
and video snippets would have helped convey the importance of the DRECP to their constituents.
According to the board's clerk, the meeting was a "Special Meeting"
and despite an operator working the video equipment, Special Meetings only require an audio
recording because some Special Meetings are held at remote locations that do not have video
recording capabilities; and to remain consistent, no video is recorded at any Special Meeting.
The stated federal and state agencies, as well as the California
Senate, are quickly railroading environmental protections into oblivion that will a
thousand-times exceed the energy overlay damage that permitted the small solar facility being
built adjacent Newberry Springs' Mountain View Road.
High Desert residents remain largely unaware of the magnitude
and impact of this plan.
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