RAPID/Geothermal/California/Environment

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RAPID

Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California Geothermal Environmental Review(9-CA)

Developers must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when undergoing projects in California. Under CEQA, every development permit is assigned a “lead agency” to coordinate the environmental review among all other state or local agencies. Some state agencies have developed their own environmental review processes in lieu of preparing Environmental Impact Reports (EIR). Developers may qualify for a categorical exemption outlined in 14 CRR §§ 15300-15333, or a statutory exemption outlined in 14 CRR §§ 15260-15285. The lead agency will conduct and initial survey to determine whether an environmental document must be prepared. If an environmental document is necessary, then the developer will be required to participate in one or more scoping meetings. The lead agency will develop Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports, and respond to any public comments. Developers may continue with their project following issuance of a Final Environmental Impact Report and the approval of any required permits.

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Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.

Permitting at a Glance

California Federal

Environmental Review Process: Developers must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when undergoing projects in California. Geothermal power plants over 50 MW are subject to the California Energy Commission siting process in lieu of the CEQA process. National Environmental Policy Act
Environmental Review Process Agency: California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, California Energy Commission United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Energy, United States Department of Defense
Type of Environmental Review (Non-Invasive Exploration): Developers must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when undergoing projects in California. California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources will be the lead agency for exploration and drilling permits. A categorical exclusion is available for all activities covered under a Notice of Intent to Conduct Geophysical Exploration (NOI), subject to extraordinary circumstance review. Where the activity results in an extraordinary circumstance, an EA or EIS is required.
Type of Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration): Developers must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when undergoing projects in California. California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources will be the lead agency for exploration and drilling permits. Temperature Gradient Holes are permitted under a categorical exclusion and subject to the same conditions as non-invasive exploration as discussed above. Any other exploration drilling activity to confirm the existence of a geothermal resource will likely require an EA.
Type of Environmental Review (Drilling): Developers must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when undergoing projects in California. California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources will be the lead agency for exploration and drilling permits. Production drilling activities will likely require an EA, but depending on the nature of the specific project, could require an EIS.
Type of Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting): The California Energy Commission or a designated local county will conduct an environmental review process that replaces the California Environmental Policy Act process for geothermal power plants with a net generating capacity of over 50 MW. Most Plans of Utilization (POU)s require an EA or EIS.

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