July 12, 2024
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BLM Adopts Categorical Exclusions to Expedite Geothermal Energy Permitting

In a move aimed at facilitating geothermal energy exploration on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the adoption of two categorical exclusions from the United States Forest Service and the Department of the Navy. These exclusions are expected to streamline the review and approval process for geothermal exploration proposals.

“Geothermal energy is a pivotal technology in our transition towards a cleaner energy future,” stated BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “Utilizing established streamlined processes for permitting geothermal exploration aligns with our commitment to sustainable energy development.”

Categorical exclusions, defined under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), identify activities deemed to have no significant impact on the environment as a whole. By leveraging these exclusions, the need for extensive environmental assessments in the permitting process is reduced. However, it’s important to note that the exclusions adopted by BLM pertain solely to geothermal exploration operations on public land, with subsequent resource development necessitating further NEPA analysis.

When evaluating permits for notices of intent to explore for geothermal resources, the BLM has the option to utilize either the Forest Service or Navy categorical exclusion to inform its decision-making process. In such cases, the BLM will clarify how the proposed action aligns with the chosen exclusion, in adherence to NEPA and geothermal program guidelines. Additionally, the BLM will assess each instance for unique circumstances that may warrant the preparation of an environmental assessment.

The Department of the Interior is set to formalize the adoption of these categorical exclusions through a notice in the Federal Register, under Section 109 of NEPA, as amended by the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. This legislative provision enables federal agencies to incorporate applicable categorical exclusions from other agency NEPA procedures.

Geothermal energy, derived from heat sources deep within the Earth, offers a reliable source of baseload electricity with minimal carbon emissions. Particularly abundant in the Western United States, where the BLM oversees geothermal leasing on approximately 245 million acres of public lands (alongside an additional 104 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service), geothermal energy also finds application in heating buildings and powering greenhouse and aquaculture operations.

The BLM’s adoption of categorical exclusions marks a significant step towards expediting geothermal energy development on public lands, supporting the nation’s transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.

CDL Classes 

T.E.A.C.H Adult Education is excited to announce the opening of a CDL driving program in Alturas in partnership with Garrett Ingram Trucking Company. For more information, please call Sarah Merrick at 530-233-5399

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