An inter-agency forum known as the Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT) seeking to streamline the renewable energy permitting process in California has succeeded in establishing a fund to centralize conservation funds that offset the impact of energy development. The REAT is composed of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and the California Energy Commission (CEC), as I noted in a previous post on the topic. Among the policy tools REAT hopes to implement is the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which would provide a framework for implementing regionally coordinated land acquisition and mitigation to off-set the negative affects of the renewable energy rush on desert biological resources. The DRECP is not expect to be completed until 2012, however.
One of the REAT's policy goals was to establish a central fund to which renewable energy developers would pay their required mitigation fees--funds intended to purchase conservation land or enable activities that enhance already established conservation measures intended for threatened species, such as the desert tortoise. As of May 2010, the REAT entered into an agreement with the Washington DC based National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which will serve as the central manager of the Renewable Energy Action Team Mitigation Account. The REAT Mitigation Account will allow energy companies to deposit money into the account and satisfy some of their mitigation requirements set forth during the permitting process in a more timely manner. REAT agencies will withdrawal money for specific land acquisition or conservation measures agreed upon by REAT agencies.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will maintain separate sub-accounts for each mitigation requirement (e.g. Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System mitigation funds, Calico Solar mitigation funds, etc) but if mitigation measures for a specific project do not use all of the funds in the account, the money can be put toward long-term project management or deposited into another sub-account. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will report twice a year--15 June and 15 December--on the status of mitigation funds for each energy project are spent. The REAT Mitigation Account would compliment the Renewable Energy Development Fee Trust Fund, which was established by California State legislation (SBX834) and managed by California. Developers could pay into either REAT or the State-run trust fund.