Senator Introduces California Desert Protection Act

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the author of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, has introduced The California Desert Protection Act of 2010, a comprehensive bill to designate new lands in the Mojave Desert for conservation. According to Feinstein's office, the legislation will also improve the federal permitting process to advance large-scale wind and solar development on suitable lands.

The bill designates two new national monuments in the Mojave Desert (the Mojave Trails National Monument and the Sand to Snow National Monument), adds adjacent lands to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve, protects nearly 76 miles of waterways as wild and scenic rivers, and designates five new wilderness areas. These areas are regarded by some solar developers as prime territory for utility-scale solar projects.

In addition, the legislation requires the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to establish offices specifically focused on renewable energy development in each state with significant wind and solar resources on public land. These offices would be funded from the existing BLM permit improvement fund, a fund that is currently only available to supervise the permitting for oil and natural-gas development.

The legislation would establish strict deadlines for developers to conduct necessary biological and cultural studies, ensure connection to the grid, and develop a plan for addressing the project's water needs.

In addition, the bill would also expedite the application process for solar development on private lands. The legislation would establish a pilot mitigation bank program to ensure that it takes no longer to review an application to develop private lands than it does to develop public lands, without infringing upon important environmental regulations, Feinstein's office says.

SOURCE: Office Of Sen. Dianne Feinstein

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