Allison C. Smith,
Stoel Rives LLP
February 04, 2011
The California Renewable Energy Action Team's (REAT) final Best Management Practices and Guidance Manual for Desert Renewable Energy Projects is now available. The Manual was adopted by the California Energy Commission on December 15, 2010. The final version posted online last week includes the minor additions from the December 15 meeting.
The REAT is made up of the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management. The REAT has the task of helping accelerate the permitting of renewable energy facilities in the California Mojave and Colorado Deserts, while minimizing environmental impacts and conserving natural resources in these areas. This will facilitate California’s larger goals of generating 33% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. For more background information on the REAT and Executive Order S-14-08, creating the Team, see our previous legal alert.
The REAT is preparing a Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan for the California Mojave and Colorado Deserts ecological areas. The Best Management Practices and Guidance Manual provides interim guidance to facilitate renewable energy during preparation of the comprehensive Conservation Plan. The Manual is designed to provide guidance to renewable energy developers on designing and siting renewable energy projects in these desert areas. The Manual’s stated goals also include assisting agencies in reviewing and permitting renewable energy projects and accelerating environmental review of renewable energy projects, though there is less practical material on these goals.
The Manual mainly details actions that should be taken prior to filing an application for a renewable energy project to streamline the permitting process. Many of the recommendations, though, are what savvy developers would strive for in any project: start coordinating early with agencies with long permitting lead times and provide them with complete materials so the process is not delayed, design and site your project to lessen environmental impacts and make sure it is not in conflict with local requirements, plans, or zoning, and complete your long-lead items in the environmental review process, like season-specific surveys, early. In fact, the Manual states “if the majority of the actions are not addressed it is likely that environmental review and decision-making will take additional time.” While it isn’t groundbreaking advice, it is useful for developers new to California or to serve as a checklist. The Manual, disappointingly (but perhaps not surprisingly) doesn’t provide agencies with any new means to shortcut the laborious permitting process. The main pre-filing recommendations are:
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