BLM and U.S. Forest Service to Consider Expanded Geothermal Leasing

June 27, 2007


Photo of a geothermal power plant in a desert setting. The plant consists of a warehouse-like building attached to a set of three cooling towers, which are emitting steam.

A new effort may lead to expanded geothermal leasing of public lands in Alaska and 11 western states.
Credit: Joel Renner, DOE's Idaho National Laboratory

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced in mid-June that it will work with the U.S. Forest Service to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for geothermal energy development in Alaska and 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The PEIS will focus on public lands in those states that have a high potential for geothermal energy development. The PEIS will examine the environmental impacts of increased geothermal leasing on those lands, and if deemed appropriate by the PEIS, the agencies will amend the land use plans in those areas to allow for expanded leasing.

The PEIS will also analyze the steps necessary to facilitate the processing of the approximately 100 geothermal lease applications that were pending as of January 1st, 2005, as mandated by the Energy Policy of Act of 2005. The law stipulated that 90% of these applications must be issued, rejected, or otherwise disposed of by August 8th, 2010. Public comments on the PEIS are being accepted until August 13th, and the BLM encourages suggestions on which areas with high geothermal potential should be examined. The BLM will also hold public meetings in 10 western cities, with the first occurring in Denver, Colorado, on July 9th. See the BLM press release and the BLM's Geothermal PEIS Web site.

The BLM has just completed its first competitive geothermal lease sales in Idaho and Utah. In Idaho, the BLM leased five parcels on 8,901 acres for more than $5.7 million. In Utah, the BLM leased three parcels on more than 6,000 acres for nearly $3.7 million. The lease sales were the first to be performed under new regulations set by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. See the press releases from the BLM state offices in Idaho and Utah.