WASHINGTON, D.C. - In honor of Clean Energy Week, U.S. Senator Jim Risch and Congressman Russ Fulcher (both R-Idaho) today introduced bicameral legislation to streamline the discovery and permitting process for geothermal energy projects. The House bill is cosponsored by Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (AR-04). The Enhancing Geothermal Production on Federal Lands Act will bring geothermal to parity with oil and gas exploration on public lands.
Congressman Fulcher commented, “I am excited to be introducing this bill with support from Ranking Member Westerman, and alongside my Idaho colleague Senator Jim Risch leading the effort in the Senate. 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.”
“Geothermal energy holds great potential in Idaho and across the West, but unfortunately, the geothermal permitting process is drowning in red tape,” said Senator Risch. “This bill with my friend and colleague, Russ, will streamline current processes so that this clean, reliable and low-cost energy source can be fully realized.”
House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman added, “In order to continue leading the world in energy standards, an all-of-the-above approach to domestic energy production must be our solution. Geothermal energy is an important part of that equation. This zero carbon, U.S.-produced energy source provides American jobs and energy security, yet overburdensome regulations continue saddling geothermal production with endless red tape. It’s time to streamline these processes on both public and private land, getting this safe, reliable energy source to market faster. I’m honored to introduce this bill with my Natural Resources Committee colleague Congressman Fulcher, and I hope to see it move quickly through Congress.”
"As we work to reduce emissions, it's important that we take advantage of every homegrown clean energy source—including geothermal power,” said Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Executive Director Heather Reams. “Thank you to Congressman Fulcher, Senator Risch, and Ranking Member Westerman for their leadership in introducing this bill, which will implement a more efficient and cost-effective process to explore for geothermal energy so America can develop more clean baseload generation, here at home, ensuring a more sustainable, reliable electric grid.”
“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 Rising Policy Committee. “This bill will allow Idaho to continue as a leader in geothermal production and further develop its indigenous renewable resources.”
Background: With 90 percent of viable geothermal resources located on federally managed lands, almost all geothermal projects are subject to the 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.
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