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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Congressman Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) introduced S. 2270, the Enhancing Geothermal Production on Federal Lands Act, a bill to streamline the discovery and permitting process for geothermal energy projects. This bill will bring geothermal to parity with oil and gas exploration on public lands. 

With 90 percent of viable geothermal resources located on federally managed lands, almost all geothermal projects are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. Currently, most geothermal exploration wells require an Environmental Assessment (EA) to be filed before exploration begins. This EA process for geothermal projects averages 10 months, meaning interested parties must wait nearly a year to determine if a viable geothermal resource even exists.

The Enhancing Geothermal Production on Federal Lands Act will alleviate this burdensome process by: 

  • Creating a limited categorical exclusion for geothermal exploration activities on federal lands so that companies can mitigate the risk of investing the high up-front capital costs that geothermal development requires. 
    • The categorical exclusion mirrors the categorical exclusion currently available to oil and gas exploration wells.  
  • Requiring the Secretary of the Interior to identify priority areas for geothermal development on federal lands within 5 years of the enactment of the bill.      
  • Allowing for geothermal development on lands already leased for oil and gas development.
    • This will encourage utilization of a valid geothermal resource if discovered on an existing federal oil and gas lease. 
  • Permitting noncompetitive leasing on adjacent federal lands for geothermal energy production.  
    • This will enable a current leaseholder to acquire neighboring lands at fair market value to fully utilize a geothermal resource.  

“Geothermal energy holds immense potential in Idaho and across much of the West, but unfortunately, developers looking to harness this resource on federal lands must navigate a labyrinth of regulations. This bill will streamline current processes to make them more efficient and cost-effective so that this clean, reliable and low-cost energy source can be fully realized,” said Senator Risch. “I’m proud to champion this effort with my colleague, Congressman Russ Fulcher, and look forward to working with him to advance this important piece of legislation.”

Congressman Fulcher commented, “I am excited to be introducing this bill alongside my Idaho colleague Senator Jim Risch. Federal regulations should not discourage geothermal exploration in Idaho, and this bill has been designed to alleviate the currently long and burdensome processes-- opening up new opportunities to harness this clean energy in our state and across the country.” 

“The Enhancing Geothermal Production on Federal Lands Act will streamline the federal permitting process, unleashing the nation’s geothermal potential,” said Paul Thomsen, Vice President, Ormat Technologies & Chairman, Geothermal Resource Council Policy Committee. “This bill will allow Idaho to continue as a leader in geothermal production and further develop its indigenous renewable resources.”

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