California Members Fight Back Against Trump Administration’s Attacks on Desert Conservation Plan

PALM DESERT – In an eleventh-hour move, the Trump Administration decided to amend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, opening up pristine areas of the California desert for energy production. The move is not sitting well with California lawmakers.

The move would allow more room for wind and solar energy projects, mining, and broadband infrastructure.

The move is the latest in a string of last-minute proposals from the outgoing administration to accelerate development on public lands, and would amend an effort, hatched jointly with the state of California during the presidency of Barack Obama, that set aside areas for renewable energy development, according to Reuters.

Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. , CA-36, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, CA-47, and Rep. Mike Levin, CA-49, on Friday responded to the Trump Administration’s decision to amend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, opening up areas of the California desert for energy production.

Raul Ruiz

Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D.

“This eleventh-hour attempt by the Trump Administration to open California lands to private mining companies is a threat to our environmental and human health and would harm our desert ecosystem,” Ruiz said. “The decision would upend years of agreed-upon negotiations between local community and environmental organizations, renewable energy businesses, and state stakeholders. I will work with President Biden to preserve the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and protect our desert while helping meet our state’s renewable energy needs.”

“The Trump administration’s last-ditch effort to amend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan puts 2.2 million acres set aside for conservation at risk,” said Sen. Feinstein. “We won’t let them undermine the plan days before leaving office. The proposed changes are designed to significantly reduce federally designated conservation lands protections and potentially open that land up to mining or other industry uses. Californians have made clear that is not what we want in our desert.”

“The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan—literally being foisted on the American people in the final hours of their tenure—is shortsighted and reckless,” said Rep. Lowenthal. “The proposal reduces outdoor recreation opportunities, endangers the fragile California desert ecosystem, and impedes renewable energy development. As we begin to work with the incoming Biden Administration, we will look to increase renewable energy development on public lands to address climate change and reduce our dependence on carbon emitting energy sources. We do not have to choose between protecting our environment or having renewable energy – if we do it right, we can have both.”

“California’s desert has both cherished natural resources that we must conserve and incredible potential for renewable energy generation,” said Rep. Mike Levin. “The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan proves that we can conserve this land and expand renewable development at the same time, and we are growing that model across the country. However, the Trump Administration’s latest changes to the program undermine its goals, putting a finger on the scale in favor of corporate interests that profit off of resource extraction. I am confident that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will work to restore balance in the program, and I look forward to partnering with their administration to protect our natural resources and responsibly expand renewable energy development.”

The proposal released by the Bureau of Land Management would reduce California Desert National Conservation Lands by about 2.2 million acres.

In addition, the proposal would reduce the number of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) from 129 to 97, reducing the acreage of the ACECs by approximately 1.8 million acres.

Image Sources

  • Raul Ruiz: Raul Ruiz
  • Colorado Desert: Shutterstock