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Senate Committee Passes Geothermal Leasing Measure

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met Thursday, May 16th, to vote on a series of measures that included S. 363, The Geothermal Expansion and Production Act. The legislation was sponsored by Senator Wyden (D-OR), and co-sponsored by Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Begich (D-AK), Crapo (R-ID), Risch (R-ID) and Merkley (D-OR).

The legislation would allow the Secretary of the Interior to issue one additional non-competitive lease of no more than 640 acres to a federal lessee that makes a discovery on an existing lease. Given the uncertainties of locating geothermal resources precisely without drilling, the bill is intended to provide some flexibility for companies taking the risk of finding a new geothermal reservoir to obtain additional lands should the thermal feature extend into an adjacent area. The legislation includes provisions to ensure fair market value is paid for the small additional lease that could be offered.

While the Committee voted to support the same legislation unanimously last year, it was unable to work its way through the full legislative process and had to start over in the new Congress. The vote was expected to be routine, but Senator Landrieu (D-LA) asked for a separate roll call vote on the measure, reportedly due to concerns she had over problems with other laws involving natural resources.

The Senate Committee, however, was at first unable to have a roll call due to a lack of a quorum. Chairman Wyden, however, held a Committee meeting off the Senate floor at 2:15pm in the afternoon to corral members in order to vote on this and several other bills. In that meeting, S. 363 was passed with bi-partisan support on a voice vote, with Senator Landrieu being recorded as voting "present."

Together with other legislation passed yesterday, S. 363 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

This article was originally published in GEA's Geothermal Energy Weekly and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Capitol building via Shutterstock

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