Senate Energy Committee Passes New Geothermal Legislation

December 16, 2011

Senate Energy Committee moved the ball forward for geothermal energy by passing two important geothermal measures, S. 1142 and S. 1149, on December 15. "These two measures will support exploration drilling, expand geothermal research into heating uses, and expedite leasing and development," remarked GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.

S. 1142, the Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act of 2011, is sponsored by Senators Tester, Reid, Murkowski and Begich. It has three major provisions: 1) it proposes a new federal loan program to promote exploratory geothermal drilling, along with the mapping and development of the nation’s substantial untapped geothermal potential; 2) it expands geothermal research into direct use and heat pump technologies; and 3) it facilitates the use of geothermal co-production by federal oil and gas leases.

S.1149, the Geothermal Production Expansion Act of 2011, is sponsored by Senators Wyden, Begich, Merkley, Crapo and Risch. It would modify the federal all-competitive leasing statue for geothermal to allow limited negotiated lease sales in circumstances where new discoveries have been made.

During the mark-up Senators Bingaman, Murkowski, Sanders and Mansion all spoke in support of geothermal energy, particularly related to S. 1142. Senator Coats expressed opposition to S. 1142 because it had no budget score and contained no proposed offsets for potential future spending. Senator Shaheen replied that "while we needed to be cognizant of the budget deficit" that her "list of priorities also included job creation."

While S. 1149 passed on a voice vote, with no opposition noted, Senator Coats asked for a roll call on S. 1142, which passed 13-8-1 with Senators voting as follows: Voting Yes on S. 1142: Senators Bingaman, Wyden, Johnson, Landrieu, Cantwell, Sanders, Stabenow, Udall, Shaheen, Franken, Manchin, Coons, and Murkowski. Voting No on S. 1142: Senators Barrasso, Risch, Lee, Paul, Coats, Portman, Hoeven, and Corker. Voting to Abstain on S. 1142: Senator Heller

Now both measures move to the Senate floor for full consideration. "These measures will help the geothermal industry continue to grow and support new jobs, the adoption of new technology, and expanded US exports," Gawell said. "The geothermal industry applauds the Senate Energy Committee for its work." For more details on either measure, go to: