The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan: An Impossible Task?
by Arielle Harris* and David Cameron**
First proposed in 2008, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP or Plan)1 is an ambitious effort to designate appropriate locations for the development of solar, wind, and geothermal energy within the Mojave Desert and Colorado/Sonoran Desert regions in California. Over the last seven years, however, the Plan’s likelihood of success has declined dramatically and there are signs the DRECP, like other recent large-scale plans, may be collapsing under its own weight. Controversy has been so heated that the state and federal agencies preparing the Plan decided this past Spring to segregate the Plan’s three fundamental components and utilize a "phased approach," with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) land use planning amendments prioritized first.2
In theory, the Plan is extremely popular. A recent opinion poll found that while only one in four surveyed knew about the Plan, 67 percent of those familiar with the DRECP supported it.3 Of those who had never heard of the Plan, 74 percent supported it after hearing its goals.4 A review of the 12,000 comments submitted on the draft Plan tells a much different story. Indeed, the Plan has been the subject of widespread criticism from renewable energy developers, environmental groups, local communities, and every county located within the Plan area. Perhaps the most common criticisms are that the Plan is overly complex and confusing, and that it fails to articulate how permit streamlining will ultimately be achieved.