Biden scraps Trump plan to weaken environmental rules to build renewables in California

Source: By Nichola Groom, Reuters • Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2021

(Reuters) – Biden administration on Wednesday said it would scrap a Trump-era proposal to weaken environmental protections for millions of acres of California desert to ease development of wind and solar energy projects.

The move is President Joe Biden’s latest effort to roll back his predecessor’s four-year legacy of energy and environmental deregulation. Former President Donald Trump’s administration made a last-minute push to accelerate energy development on public lands, including by amending the so-called Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan just days before leaving office.

In the coming days, Biden’s Department of Interior will revoke the public comment period on those plan amendments, a spokesman for the agency said in an emailed statement.

Biden supports building more renewable energy installations on public lands, but his administration said the original DRECP balanced wind and solar development with conservation and outdoor recreation.

“The Trump administration’s proposal in its final days to re-open the plan is unnecessary and at odds with balanced land management,” Laura Daniel Davis, Interior’s principal deputy secretary for land and minerals management, said in a statement.

The DRECP was hatched jointly with the state of California during the presidency of Barack Obama and set aside areas for renewable energy development. Last month, Trump’s Interior said the changes were needed for California to meet its goal to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

Some wind and solar developers opposed the Obama-era strategy because they said it left millions of acres off-limits to their projects.

This month, the California Wind Energy Association sent a letter to Interior saying that the DRECP amendments proposed by the previous administration “may be consistent with the Administration’s climate policy goals and urge that it be considered.”

An Interior official would not comment on the letter.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by David Gregorio