National Parks Conservation Association, San Bernardino County Convene Desert Renewable Energy Plan Workshop with CA Energy Commission, BLM

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San Bernardino County and Conservation Organizations Host Community Workshop with BLM, California Energy Commission

It is critical for these agencies and local communities to come together and build a DRECP that incorporates our voices, protects the beauty of our national parks and special places, our tourism economy, and our quality of life. - NPCA's David Lamfrom

Providing a forum for education and public discussion about present and future renewable energy development in the California desert, San Bernardino County, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Wildlands Conservancy will host two Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) workshops, September 6-7, 2013. For the first time since DRECP planning began in 2010, top state officials from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and California Energy Commission (CEC) will travel to the California desert to hear from the public during the two-day listening session and community meeting.

The National Parks Conservation Association and Wildlands Conservancy have long-requests that the state agencies hold public meetings in the California desert, a sentiment that was echoed and amplified by San Bernardino County Supervisors James Ramos and Robert Lovingood.

“It is critical for these agencies and local communities to come together and build a DRECP that incorporates our voices, protects the beauty of our national parks and special places, our tourism economy, and our quality of life,” said David Lamfrom, California Desert Senior Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “Since our communities are being asked to bear the burden of opening a million or more acres for industrialization to meet renewable energy goals, local citizens deserve a seat at the table to help steer this process forward.”

The workshops will include context from the sponsoring groups, education about the plan from the participating agencies, expert panels, breakout sessions with stations set up to answer questions on planning, transmission, individual projects, and conservation, and significant opportunity for public comment.

“The Board of Supervisors is very pleased that the DRECP staff and other state and federal decision makers will be coming to Lucerne Valley and Yucca Valley this Friday and Saturday to hear directly from the people impacted most by this large scale planning process for renewable energy projects,” said Supervisor James Ramos. “Supervisor Lovingood and I advocated for these meetings and for increased civic input earlier this year and we are pleased that CEC Commissioner Douglas, her staff, and other state and federal agencies responded favorably. We’re looking forward to meaningful dialogue on this critical issue.”

The DRECP builds upon the Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that was finalized last year, which examined opportunities for solar development on public lands. While the final PEIS protects selected lands adjacent to national parks and in sensitive wildlife habitats, the DRECP was expected to fine tune and improve upon this general framework.

Decisions made that approved widely opposed projects has cast a cloud over the public’s perception of renewable energy and whether a thoughtful balance can be struck. Recent business and community concern encouraged Twentynine Palms, one of the desert’s largest cities, to pass an ordinance against industrial-scale solar to protect its tourism economy. Shortly thereafter, public response prompted San Bernardino County to implement a nine-month moratorium on permitting renewable energy projects on private lands while they develop a plan. It also prompted Supervisors Ramos, Lovingood, and Gonzales to call for meetings in the desert to ensure residents are heard.

"This is desert residents and stakeholders’ first opportunity to speak directly to the BLM, CEC, and San Bernardino County about how the DRECP will affect our lives and businesses," said April Sall, Conservation Director for Wildlands Conservancy and third generation resident of Pipes Canyon. "While we welcome the agencies to the desert, residents have been frustrated with this notable absence, and are hopeful that their perspectives will matter to these decision makers - evidenced by improvements being made to the plan in their environmental documents, to be released this fall.”

Gathering public comment will be a core goal of the two public meetings and participants will be encouraged to share their perspectives in whichever format they prefer: publicly, to record written comments, or to share their comments with a hired court reporter at a break out station. Expected topics of community discussion include how to increase roof-top solar generation, concern about remote projects that harm national parks and other sensitive resources, and how to protect rural values and quality of life in the County.

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DRECP Workshops

Lucerne Valley: Friday, September 6, 2013 from 6:30-9:00pm
Lucerne Valley Elementary School
10788 Barstow Road
Lucerne, CA 92356

Yucca Valley: Saturday, September 7, 2013 from 9am-1pm
Yucca Valley Community Center, Yucca Room,
57090 Twentynine Palms Highway
Yucca Valley, CA, 92284

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Kati Schmidt
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