By Deb Murphy
Inyo Board of Supervisors Chair Dan Totheroh and the majority of the public commenters were confused over the three-page letter dealing with the County’s response to reopening the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan at Tuesday’s meeting.
Here’s a refresher: By executive order, the Bureau of Land Management is taking a second look at the plan designed to identify what to protect and what is appropriate for renewable energy development on 22 million acres of public lands. The DRECP took eight years and a whole lot of public input.
When asked for direction on a comment letter to BLM at the February 27 Board meeting, the Board split three to two. Totheroh, Mark Tillemans and Rick Pucci preferred a brief letter in support of the existing plan. Any issues could be resolved during the implementation phase.
Board members Matt Kingsley and Jeff Griffiths wanted those specific issues outlined in the letter.
The letter under discussion yesterday outlined six issues in detail.
Kingsley and Griffiths justified inclusion of the issues because some, like additional Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, were added during the last months of President Barrack Obama’s administration without vetting through the public input process.
During the comment period, McGee Creek Pack Station owner Jen Roeser said the operation was denied a permit to provide pack support on two occasions because of those ACECs identified in the plan.
The Sierra Club’s Fran Hunt thought those kinds of issues could be resolved without reopening the whole plan. She told the Board “this is a scoping letter” and the identified issues would be considered a reason to reopen the DRECP.
Earl Wilson generally liked the idea of looking at the ACECs. His best-case-scenario was an advisory group with Inyo County at the table during the implementation process.
It’s unknown of any of the current administration’s other executive orders have come down with any public input or advisory panel.
Again, public comment was largely in support of a simple letter without sending what Friends of the Inyo Executive Director Wendy Schneider described as a “mixed message.”
Kingsley and Griffiths were adamant the letter go as written. Pucci caved on the question of a brief letter but wanted the word “rescinded” removed in reference to the additional ACECs. Tillemans was absent from the meeting, giving the “go with the letter” side the majority.
The motion was made to remove “rescinded” but keep the itemized issues. Kingsley voted against the motion based on the removal of “rescinded,” asserting that nothing listed, like the multitude of Wilderness Study Areas were ever declassified.