February 2, 2018 / 6:03 PM / 4 months ago

U.S. could unwind wind, solar restrictions on federal lands

Feb 2 (Reuters) - The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is considering changes to a plan that set aside areas for renewable energy development in the California desert, a move it says would promote more wind and solar projects on federal lands.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in a statement on Thursday, said it would consider amending the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan as part of a broader federal effort to unwind regulations that impede energy development.

The process is also aimed at making more land available for wireless broadband infrastructure, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Katharine MacGregor said in the statement.

“We need to reduce burdens on all domestic energy development, including solar, wind and other renewables,” she said.

The Bureau of Land Management is part of the Interior Department, which has made similar moves to open up more federal land and waters to oil and gas exploration.

Know as the DRECP, the plan was hatched jointly between California and the federal government over an eight-year process that was finalized in September of 2016.

At the time, it drew criticism from solar and wind developers because it designated just 388,000 acres of the 10.8 million acres covered by the DRECP for renewable energy development.

Environmental groups generally welcomed the plan, saying it struck the right balance between preserving wildlife and plant habitats and allowing for ample wind and solar development.

In its statement, BLM noted California’s ambitious law requiring utilities to source 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030.

Representatives from the wind and solar industries, as well as California energy officials, were not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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