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House Committee Approves Labrador Bill Boosting Geothermal Exploration

 

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Wednesday | Dec. 13, 2017

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HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES LABRADOR BILL BOOSTING GEOTHERMAL EXPLORATION

 Legislation lifts regulatory hurdles to spur development of clean, renewable energy on public lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday approved a bill by Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, to expand exploration and development of geothermal energy in Idaho and other states.

H.R. 4568, the Enhancing Geothermal Production on Federal Lands Act, passed on a bipartisan voice vote.

“Idaho has an abundant supply of clean energy stored below ground, but the resource hasn’t reached its potential because of excessive regulation,” Labrador said. “My bill will clear the way for additional exploration without sacrificing environmental protections.

“I thank my colleagues on the Committee for believing in this renewable and reliable energy that will grow the economy as well as promote national energy security. I look forward to a successful vote on the floor,” Labrador added.

Ninety percent of commercially viable U.S. geothermal resources exist on federal lands. In Idaho alone, the resource is estimated at 800 megawatts – enough to heat 500,000 homes.

H.R. 4568 would reduce regulatory approval waiting times for small exploratory wells from about 10 months to two months or less. Test holes 9 inches or less in diameter would be granted a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Similar provisionsalready exist for the oil, gas and mining industries.

The bill also permits coproduction of geothermal resources on lands leased for oil and gas; requires the government to identify priority areas for geothermal development; and authorizes noncompetitive, fair market value leasing by an existing leaseholder on adjoining lands. The leasing provision is drawn from H.R. 4252, a bill introduced in November by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

The bill has the support of Boise-based U.S. Geothermal Inc., which operates plants at Raft River and just across the Idaho-Oregon line near Vale, Ore.

The bill also is supported by the Geothermal Energy Association, whose chairman, Joe Greco, wrote the committee last month. “We are confident that if these recommendations are heeded, the geothermal industry will be able to deploy more megawatts on public lands, creating new jobs and royalty revenues for our local states and counties,” Greco wrote.

Idaho has a long history with geothermal energy, including the heating of the Statehouse and offices and homes in Boise. The Idaho National Lab is a leader in geothermal research. The INL helped develop the Raft River area in the 1970s, pioneering the concept of binary power cycles that is now the worldwide standard for plant efficiency. Today, INL continues to work on next-generation geothermal technology.

To view video of Labrador’s opening statement on consideration of the bill click here.