Representative Raul Ruiz has released a copy of the letter signed by 38 members of California’s Democratic delegation to the House of Representatives expressing their firm opposition to reopening the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).
In the letter authored by Ruiz, the California Democratic members expressed strong opposition to the Department of Interior’s recent threat to overhaul the DRECP, California’s landmark blueprint for recreation, renewable energy, and conservation of public land in the California Desert.
“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 stressed. “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.”
According to Ruiz, the Trump Administration has claimed it wants to see more areas open to large scale renewable energy and other extractive land use activities that would irreparably harm public access, iconic landscapes, and critical habitat. The DRECP was designed to make permits for renewable energy projects and transmission on public land faster and more efficient and would provide more than 388,000 acres of Development Focus Areas for renewable energy development.
The plan also provided 3.6 million acres for recreation, such as hiking, camping, rockhounding, and off-road vehicles, and more than 4.2 million acres of new National Conservation Lands, all of which support dozens of thriving local economies built on these activities.
As currently implemented, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is designed to protect more than 22.5 million acres of Southern California’s landscape in the desert regions and adjacent lands of seven California counties including Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The DRECP resulted from eight years of collaboration that involved state and federal agencies, renewable energy developers, conservationists, recreationalists, and other stakeholders. It was based on extensive scientific study and struck a clear balance between the interests of industry, conservationists, recreationists, government, and local residents.
The Trump Administration announced its proposed changes with a limited, 45-day window for public comment. And, although it held a series of eight pubic hearings, according to Ruiz, the Administration failed to give the public the opportunity to voice comments at any of them.
By contrast, on Saturday Ruiz hosted a community hearing in Palm Desert where he provided his constituents an opportunity to weight in on the Administration’s changes and he plans to pass those comments on to the Department of Interior. The California Democratic delegation’s letter can be viewed online at https://ruiz.house.gov/sites/ruiz.house.gov/files/38_CA_Dems_Oppose_Reopening_DRECP.pdf.