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7 minutes reading time (1319 words)

DOI Releases Geothermal Initiative

Date: Oct. 22, 2008
Kempthorne Launches Initiative to Spur Geothermal Energy and Power Generation on Federal Lands

PHOENIX, Arizona – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced a plan to make more than 190 million acres of Federal land in 12 western states available for development of geothermal energy resources, an initiative that could increase electric generation capacity from geothermal resources ten times over.

“Geothermal energy will play a key role in powering America’s energy future,” Kempthorne said, “and 90 percent of our nation’s geothermal resources are found on Federal lands. Facilitating their leasing and development under environmentally sound regulations is crucial to supplying the secure, clean energy American homes and businesses need.”

Under the development scenario outlined in the plan – known as the Final Geothermal Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement – the initiative could produce 5,540 megawatts of new electric generation capacity from geothermal resources by 2015. That’s enough to meet the power needs of 5.5 million homes. The plan also estimates an additional 6,600 megawatts by 2025 for a total of 12,100 megawatts – enough to power more than 12 million homes.

When put into action by a Record of Decision, the plan would identify about 118 million acres of Bureau of Land Management-managed public lands and 79 million acres of National Forest System lands for future geothermal leasing. It would provide a list of appropriate stipulations to be applied to leases and amend 122 Bureau of Land Management land use plans to allow for geothermal development.

Kempthorne noted the strong interest states, local communities, industry and environmental groups took in the development of this plan. “This process has benefited greatly from the involvement of both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, and from the clear direction Congress gave in the 2005 Energy Policy Act,” the Secretary said. “It’s really a model for working together to make decisions about our energy future.”

The United States is already the world leader in generating electricity using geothermal energy, with about 16,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity generated in 2005. Almost half of this production and 90 percent of U.S. geothermal resources occur on Federal lands. (One megawatt of geothermal energy provides enough power to meet all the electricity needs of more than 1,000 homes. A gigawatt, which is 1000 megawatts, can power more than 1 million homes.)

Geothermal leasing revenues and royalties are shared with the States and counties where the leases are located, with 50 percent going to the State; 25 percent to the county and the remaining 25 percent to the Geothermal Royalty Fund of the Bureau of Land Management for investing in further geothermal planning and development.

Under Interior’s plan, future geothermal leasing will be subject to all existing laws, regulations and orders, as well as stipulations and terms and conditions. To protect special resource values, the plan identifies a comprehensive list of stipulations, conditions of approval and best management practices required for approval of future leases.

Lands withdrawn from or administratively closed to geothermal leasing will remain so. For example, lands within a unit of the National Park System, such as Yellowstone National Park, will continue to be unavailable for leasing. The PEIS also excludes wilderness areas and wilderness study areas from analysis. It will allow discretionary closure of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern where the BLM determines that this is appropriate. The BLM may also implement discretionary closures of units of the National Landscape Conservation System.

The Forest Service will use information in the plan to facilitate leasing analysis to determine whether or not geothermal leasing is appropriate and to evaluate its land use plans and amend them as needed through a separate environmental review process.

In addition to laying the foundation for environmental analysis of future geothermal leasing, the plan also provides site-specific environmental analysis of 19 pending geothermal lease applications in seven geographic locations. These leases were filed before Jan. 1, 2005 for specific lands in Alaska, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington managed by the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Decisions on the issuance of these 19 leases could proceed as soon as the Record of Decision is signed.

The governors of the 12 states in the plan’s project area will each have the opportunity to review the final document to ensure consistency with state plans, programs, and policies. The Bureau of Land Management will wait until the end of the Governor’s consistency review period before signing and issuing the Record of Decision approving the land use plan amendments. Any inconsistencies will be resolved before a Record of Decision is issued.

Replenished by heat sources deep in the earth, geothermal energy is a renewable resource that generates electricity with minimal carbon emissions. Direct use of geothermal energy supplies heat for buildings, greenhouses, aquaculture, and other activities. It offers additional possibilities for reducing the need for conventional energy sources. As many as 270 western communities could benefit from such direct uses.

Growing interest in developing these resources is seen in the results of recent Bureau of Land Management geothermal lease sales in areas where current Resource Management Plans already allocate lands for such use. An August 2007 sale drew the highest-ever per-acre bid for a lease in California’s famed Geysers field. And a sale of leases in Nevada brought a record-breaking $28.2 million in August 2008

A total of 29 geothermal power plants currently operate on Bureau of land Management lands in California, Nevada and Utah, with a total generating capacity of 1,250 megawatts – enough to supply the needs of 1.2 million homes.

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service will publish the final version of a plan in the Federal Register on Friday, Oct. 24, 2008. It will be available online at http://www.blm.gov/Geothermal_EIS.


Table 1: BLM Land Use Plans Proposed for Amendment under the PEIS
State
Land Use Plan(s)
ALASKA
Central Yukon RMP
 
Kobuk-Seward RMP
 
Ring of Fire RMP
ARIZONA
Arizona Strip RMP
 
Kingman RMP
 
Lake Havasu RMP
 
Lower Gila North MFP
 
Lower Gila South RMP
 
Phoenix RMP
 
Safford RMP
 
Yuma RMP
CALIFORNIA
Alturas RMP
 
Arcata RMP
 
Bishop RMP
 
Caliente RMP
 
Cedar Creek/Tule Mountain Integrated RMP
 
E. San Diego County RMP
 
Eagle Lake RMP
 
Headwaters RMP
 
Hollister RMP
 
Redding RMP
 
S. Diablo Mountain Range and Central Coast RMP
 
South Coast RMP
 
Surprise RMP
 
West Mojave RMP
COLORADO
Glenwood Springs RMP
 
Grand Junction RMP
 
Gunnison RMP
 
Kremmling RMP
 
Little Snake RMP
 
Northeast RMP
 
Royal Gorge RMP
 
San Juan/San Miguel RMP
 
Uncompahgre Basin RMP
 
White River RMP
IDAHO
Bennett Hills/ Timmerman Hills MFP
 
Big Desert MFP
 
Big Lost MFP
 
Bruneau MFP
 
Cascade RMP
 
Cassia RMP
 
Challis RMP
 
Chief Joseph MFP
 
Jarbidge RMP
 
Kuna MFP
 
Lemhi RMP
 
Little Lost-Birch MFP
 
Magic MFP
 
Malad MFP
 
Medicine Lodge RMP
 
Monument RMP
 
Owyhee RMP
 
Pocatello RMP
 
Sun Valley MFP
 
Twin Falls MFP
MONTANA
Big Dry RMP
 
Billings Resource Area RMP
 
Dillon RMP
 
Garnet Resource Area RMP
 
Judith Valley Phillips RMP
 
North Headwaters RMP
 
Powder River Resource Area RMP
 
West HiLine RMP
NEVADA
Carson City Consolidated RMP
 
Elko RMP
 
Las Vegas RMP
 
Paradise-Denio MFP
 
Shoshone-Eureka RMP
 
Sonoma-Gerlach MFP
 
Tonopah RMP
 
Wells RMP
NEW MEXICO
Carlsbad RMP
 
Farmington RMP
 
MacGregor Range RMP
 
Mimbres RMP
 
Rio Puerco RMP
 
Roswell RMP
 
Socorro RMP
 
Taos RMP
 
White Sands RMP
OREGON
Brothers/LaPine RMP
 
Eugene District RMP
 
John Day River MP
 
John Day RMP
 
Lower Deschutes RMP
 
Medford RMP
 
Roseburg RMP
 
Salem RMP
 
Three Rivers RMP
 
Two Rivers RMP
UTAH
Book Cliffs MFP
 
Box Elder RMP
 
Cedar Beaver Garfield Antimony RMP
 
Diamond Mountain RMP
 
Henry Mountain MFP
 
House Range Resource Area RMP
 
Iso-tract MFP
 
Mountain Valley MFP
 
Paria MFP
 
Park City MFP
 
Parker Mountain MFP
 
Pinyon MFP
 
Pony Express RMP
 
Randolph MFP
 
St. George (formerly Dixie) RMP
 
Vermilion MFP
 
Warm Springs Resource Area RMP
 
Zion MFP
WASHINGTON
Spokane RMP
 
WYOMING
 
Big Horn Basin RMP
 
Buffalo RMP
 
Cody RMP
 
Grass Creek RMP
 
Great Divide RMP
 
Green River RMP
 
Kemmerer RMP
 
Lander RMP
 
Newcastle RMP
 
Pinedale RMP
 
Platte River RMP
 
Snake River RMP
 
Waskakie RMP
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