RAPID/Geothermal/California/Exploration

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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California Geothermal Exploration Permitting(4-CA)

When seeking to conduct geothermal exploration activities that include drilling exploration wells, developers must complete the exploration permitting process to obtain a Geothermal Resources Prospecting Permit. The Geothermal Resources Prospecting Permit gives the permittee the exclusive right to explore the permit area for a period of two years with a possible two year extension. For exploration activities that do not involve drilling exploration wells, developers may obtain a Non-Exclusive Exploration Permit for preliminary information gathering, geological, geophysical and geochemical exploration. Holders of prospecting permits may obtain, upon discovery of a geothermal resource, a preferential right to a geothermal lease. Prior to drilling a new well, developers must also obtain a Notice of Intention to Commence Drilling (NOI) and a Permit to Conduct Well Operations as required by the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). California’s CEQA process must be followed, with DOGGR as the lead agency, unless explicitly delegated to a local authority. The geothermal exploration permitting process is governed by both California Public Resources Code Division 3, Chapter 4 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, Division 2, Chapter 4.

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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

Pre-Drilling Exploration Permit Agency: County or Local Government Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service
Pre-Drilling Exploration Permit: If the proposed activity does not include the drilling of exploration wells (e.g., Temperature Gradient Wells) any required permits will be handled at the local/county level. See 4-CA-a for additional information. Notice of Intent to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations (Form 3200-009)
Drilling Exploration Permit Agency: California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources Bureau of Land Management
Drilling Exploration Permit: A “geothermal exploratory project” is a project as defined in Section 21065 composed of not more than six wells and associated drilling and testing equipment, whose chief and original purpose is to evaluate the presence and characteristics of geothermal resources prior to commencement of a geothermal field development project as defined in Section 65928.5 of the Government Code. Wells included within a geothermal exploratory project must be located at least one-half mile from geothermal development wells which are capable of producing geothermal resources in commercial quantities. [1] Notice of Intent to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations (Form 3200-009) (Temperature Gradient Well); Geothermal Drilling Permit (Form 3260-002) (All other drilling activities)

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List of Reference Sources

  1. California PRC Section 21065.5, Definitions for Geothermal Exploratory Project (2013).
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