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California Desert Protection Act of 2010

Bill Summary

Title I: California Desert Conservation and Recreation

Sec 101: Amendments to the California Desert Protection Act of 1994

Title XIII: Mojave Trails National Monument.

Title XIV: Sand to Snow National Monument

Title V: Wilderness

Title VI: Vinagre Wash Special Management Area

Title VII: National Park System Additions

Title XVIII: Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Areas

Title XIX: Miscellaneous

Section 1901: State land transfers and exchanges.

Section 1902: Ensures continued military training activities.

Section 1903: Climate change and wildlife corridors.

Section 1904: Prohibited uses of donated and acquired land.

Section 1905: Tribal uses and interests.

Section 520: Native groundwater supplies.

Section 102: Wild and scenic rivers.

Title II: Desert Renewable Energy Permitting

Section 201: Authorizing Renewable Energy Permitting Office funding and specifying uses for funds generated by renewable development. This section would authorize the Department of the Interior to:

Section 202: Establishes a process to eliminate the backlog of renewable energy development proposals on Federal Land. This section would establish deadlines on both Federal agencies and applicants to expedite the environmental review of renewable energy development proposals, to prioritize development proposals in which the developer makes significant progress, and to turn down ill conceived and speculative proposals.  Applicants who fail to meet deadlines will be rejected in favor of developers who make progress on their sites.  The Bureau of Land Management would replace its first-come, first-serve permit review process with a process that would give priority to renewable energy developers who have (1) completed their biological and cultural studies, (2) submitted an accepted development plan and a plan for securing necessary water, and (3) applied for an interconnection to the power grid.  The Secretary of the Interior has used similar criteria to declare renewable energy proposals on a permitting “fast track.”

Section 203: Establish a coordinated plan to develop renewable energy on Federal Land. This section would require the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Forest Service to undertake Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements of renewable energy potential on Federal land, with the goal of identifying zones where renewable energy production is in the public interest, and where environmental approval of renewable energy projects can be expedited.

Section 204: Requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to Study Renewable Energy Potential. This section would instruct the DoD to study the viability of developing a renewable energy program on Southwest military bases.  Military bases in California and Nevada have thousands of disturbed acres which cannot be used for training and may be good places for renewable energy development.  Base leaders are working to develop renewable energy as a result of a DoD goal to generate 25 percent of all energy from renewable sources by 2025.  But the efforts are not coordinated, and this study would focus personnel on this matter formally. 

Section 205: Pilot Program to Establish Endangered Species Mitigation Zones: In order to better coordinate endangered species protection and reduce barriers to shifting development from Federal land to private land, renewable energy developers proposing to develop private lands would contribute money to an endowed fund that would be used to better manage, in perpetuity, habitat for desert tortoise and other endangered or threatened species on at least 200,000 acres of specified public lands.  Recent research indicates that, especially for protection of the Desert Tortoise, better and more active management of existing federal land is a more effective way to protect the species than acquiring additional mitigation acres in an uncoordinated manner.  BLM would adopt a management plan for each zone in consultation with the Fish & Wildlife Service and an expert advisory panel.

Section 206: Bonding: Developers proposing renewable energy projects on Federal land would be required to purchase and hold a bond to fund the eventual clean up and restoration of projects proposed on public lands.

Section 207: Clarify Permitting Requirements for Temporary Weather Measurement Equipment: This section would permit the Bureau of Land Management to expedite the permitting of wind and solar measurement devices.

Section 208: Report: The Secretary of the Interior shall have to report regularly to Congress on progress permitting renewable energy projects on public lands.

Section 209: Establish loan guarantees and grants for advanced technology and underground transmission lines.  New technologies could upgrade the capacity of the electricity transmission grid without requiring the permitting and construction of massive new towers.  Newly designed higher capacity wires can be strung from existing towers, and new technologies allow for more cost effective underground transmission.  However, utilities resist deploying these new technologies because they are not yet proven and they remain more expensive.  By providing support for these innovations, grants and loan guarantees would help prove these emerging technologies in a cost effective public-private partnership.