A bipartisan group of US Senators on the body's Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have endorsed a measure aimed at boosting development of geothermal energy by tweaking the leasing program for tracts of federal land.
According to The Hill newspaper, which covers the United States Congress, the bill was introduced by the committee's new chairman, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, and it already has the support of Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the committee's top Republican, and a bipartisan mix of other lawmakers.
At present, the US Department of Interior holds lease sales, and then offers land on a “noncompetitive” basis if no bids are received.
Under the proposed plan, access would be expanded to land that’s offered outside of competitive lease sales.
“This legislation extends the authority for noncompetitive leasing in cases where a geothermal developer wants to gain access to Federal land immediately adjacent to land on which that developer has proven that there is a geothermal resource that will be developed," Wyden said in a statement.
"This will allow a geothermal project to expand onto adjacent land, if necessary, to increase the amount of geothermal energy it can develop. It will also add to the royalties and rents that the project pays to the U.S. Treasury,” he continued. "The reason for this legislation is to allow the rapid expansion of already identified geothermal resources without the additional delays of competitive leasing and without opening up those adjacent properties to speculative bidders who have no interest in actually developing the resource, only in extracting as much money as they can from the existing geothermal developer."
The bill limits the amount of adjacent Federal land that can be leased to 640 acres, and, Wyden stressed, the lease on Federal land must be acquired at fair-market value.
The bill also requires the lease holder to pay the higher annual rental rate associated with competitive leases even though this new parcel is not being competitively leased.