I keep coming back to the prognosis for the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, or S.2921) because even if I am pessimistic about its chances, I know Washington is an unpredictable arena where one has to keep an eye open for opportunities. Part of me believes CDPA 2010 is unlikely to be considered by Congress this year. As I've noted in previous posts, Senator Feinstein's proposed CDPA 2010 is still stuck in the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, and Congress has plenty of business to consider in a relatively short amount of time, meaning that the bill faces an uphill battle.
However, there may be a fleeting window for the Senator's office to establish the two national monuments and host of other off-road recreation and wilderness designations included in CDPA 2010 by including her language in legislation that is more likely to be considered before the full Congress before the end of the year. It appears that Congress is much more likely to consider and vote on proposed bills that are more significant on a national scale, whereas CDPA 2010 is geographically limited to California (even though the resources it would protect are a national treasure).
Instead of a stand-alone bill (as CDPA 2010 currently exists) waiting its turn in the long line of proposed bills, the Senator's office could consider combining her legislation with H.R. 5735 -- the "Clean Energy, Community Investment, and Wildlife Conservation Act"-- which is bipartisan legislation aimed at creating a pilot land leasing program for renewable energy, and using some of the profit from the leasing to fund habitat mitigation efforts. Senator Feinstein's legislation is in the same spirit of H.R. 5735, since it attempts to address the "solar rush" on public lands, and balance the need for renewable energy with the need to preserve our natural heritage and open space.
The proposed H.R. 5735 is likely to receive broad support on a national scale, since the legislation would divide royalties from renewable energy development on public land -- giving 25% of the collected funds to the State in which the energy development occurs, 25% to the appropriate County, 15% to fund BLM administrative functions, and 35% to wildlife conservation and habitat protection. It could also steer some of the renewable energy projects away from pristine and biologically sensitive desert habitat.