USDA Forest Service Must Review Geothermal Lease Applications

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which includes the Steam Act, requires the USDA Forest Service to complete administrative actions necessary to process pending geothermal lease applications within five years and reduce the backlog by 90-percent.

These actions include amendments to applicable forest plans and resource management plans. The John Rishel Geothermal Steam Act Amendment, passed in August of 2005, requires the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to evaluate 11 such apps, which cover approximately 18,000 acres, and were originally filed in 1992 for the Mount Shasta vicinity. Geothermal exploration activity occurred on leased lands near Mount Shasta in 1987. It was determined by the leaseholder that core samples did not show enough evidence to support a commercially viable operation and the leases were terminated at the request of the leaseholder. “We recognize the importance of making public lands available to promote all forms of energy, including geothermal, but in a way that provides for prudent site selection and sound environmental management,” said Forest Supervisor J. Sharon Heywood. “We recognize Mount Shasta is a site of significant cultural and historical importance; we will be diligent in the environmental review process.” With the exception of wilderness and national recreation areas, most National Forest System lands can be considered for mineral or geothermal use. Forest Service officials point out if geothermal leasing is approved on National Forest System lands, responsibility for development of the geothermal leases will reside with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Forest Service will retain responsibility for review and approval of associated on-the-ground activities, such as roads, pipelines and power lines. The Forest Service, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), will make a recommendation to the BLM to either consent to leasing, consent to leasing with stipulations or not consent to leasing. The public will have opportunities to comment as the Forest Service progresses through the geothermal leasing process.
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