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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Compare Geothermal Permitting and Regulations Across States

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Geothermal Land Use Comparison

Land Use Plans (LUPs) are used by local, state and federal agencies to manage public lands and they form the basis for every action and approved use of those lands. Different agencies will refer to LUPs by different names, but all LUPs serve the same purpose; to dictate what actions can and cannot be taken on the managed unit of land. Non-conforming uses require a LUP be amended or revised before a right-of-way or special use permit can be authorized. In addition, some state and local land may be governed by state LUPs. A developer should check to see if a LUP is applicable to the project site, and if so, whether the LUP allows for utility-scale solar development. If the LUP does not allow for utility-scale solar development, the developer should initiate the state or local land use plan amendment process.
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Federal Land Use %
State Land Use %
Tribal Land Use %
Private Land Use %
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
ColoradoX
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
IdahoX
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
NebraskaX
NevadaX
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
UtahX
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Land Access Comparison

Unless a developer owns both the surface rights and geothermal rights for a project, the developer will be required to obtain land access from the owner(s) of the surface rights and/or geothermal rights. Even in cases where the developer owns both the surface rights and geothermal rights for a project, the developer may still face land access issues related to accessing the site, and building roads, pipelines or transmission lines for the project. Land access can be gained through land purchase, a lease, or by obtaining written or oral permission from the landowner. Typically, a formal written lease is standard practice for private land, while federal, state, or tribal land may have statutory or regulatory leasing requirements to meet before the relevant party may issue a lease.

On a federal mineral estate managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the developer will need to obtain a Geothermal Resource Lease to develop geothermal resources, which is typically obtained from the BLM through the Competitive Geothermal Lease Sale Nomination Process or through a noncompetitive lease application for lands on which no bids were received at a competitive lease sale (the noncompetitive option extends for the two years following the competitive lease sale). The developer may obtain access to the land for certain exploration purposes without a lease with the approval of a Notice of Intent to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations. In addition, the developer may require land access over a federal surface estate for other reasons, such as roads or transmission lines. This may be obtained through a right-of-way or use authorization from the application federal agency.

On state land the process varies from state to state, in large part due to the inconsistent definition of a geothermal resource and the level of control the state exerts over geothermal resources. To access the geothermal resource, a developer may be required to obtain a state geothermal lease by either competitive or noncompetitive means, a state surface lease, or a temporary permit for exploration activities. In addition, the developer may require land access over a state surface estate for other reasons, such as roads or transmission lines. Developers may obtain other forms of surface access through a surface lease, right-of-way, or other use authorization to access state lands.

On tribal land the developer will negotiate with the individual tribe for land access, which may require approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The process will vary depending on whether the developer is seeking access to a surface estate or mineral estate and whether the tribe has been granted the authority to operate without BIA approval by the Secretary of the Interior.

On a private surface estate or mineral estate, the developer will be required to negotiate a private lease or easement when the individual landowner.
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Leasing Agency
Competitive Land Leasing
Noncompetitve Land Leasing
Royalty Rate Competitive Land Lease
Royalty Rate Noncompetitive Land Lease
Royalty Rate Calculation Basis
Royalty Distribution
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
Yes, if multiple applications are received for a mineral tract.
Yes, if a single application is received for a mineral tract.
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
California State Lands Commission
California State Land Commission may determine the use of a competitive process.
California State Land Commission may determine the use of a non-competitive process.
ColoradoX
Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners
Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners has authority to approve geothermal leases through competitive bidding.
Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners has authority to approve geothermal leases through non-competitive negotiation.
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
Bureau of Land Management
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Department of Transportation Highways Division, Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Divsion
Competitive public auction for state mineral rights or reserved mineral rights where the right of first refusal is not exercised in six months.
Non-competitive six month right of first refusal for the surface owner of lands overlying reserved mineral rights.
IdahoX
Idaho Department of Lands
Yes, if the Idaho Department of Lands receives two or more applications on the same day or if after a single applicant files an application for lease, another application is filed after the public notice period.
Yes, if the Idaho Department of Lands receives only one application and thereafter no other party files an application to lease the parcel.
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation
Yes, competitive bid process.
None
NebraskaX
NevadaX
Nevada Division of State Lands
Yes, public auction administered by the Nevada Division of State Lands.
None
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
New Mexico State Land Office
Yes, New Mexico State Land Office issues geothermal leases through competitive auction.
No
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
Oregon Department of State Lands
If the land is within a Designated Geothermal Resources Area (DGRA), the Oregon Department of State Lands will likely facilitate the competitive leasing process.
If the land is outside a Designated Geothermal Resource Area (DGRA), the Oregon Department of State Lands will likely facilitate a non-competitive leasing process.
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
Texas General Land Office
Yes, for all lands except Relinquishment Act Lands.
Yes, for Relinquishment Act Lands.
UtahX
Utah Department of Natural Resources
Yes, discretionary.
Yes, discretionary.
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Washington State Department of Natural Resources may offer the land for a public lease auction.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources may negotiate terms for a land lease with a prospective developer.
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Exploration Comparison

Geothermal exploration can take numerous forms, from non-invasive techniques that cause little or no disturbance to the land to invasive techniques that resemble full drilling and construction operations. Non-invasive exploration typically requires fewer and less extensive permits compared to invasive exploration, which may require the developer to obtain permits that would be similar to those required for a fully operational geothermal plant.

Non-invasive techniques are those that cause little or no disturbance to the land. Examples include satellite or airplane flyover surveys, seismic surveys, magnetic surveys, and gravity surveys. Techniques like flyover surveys may require no permits at all; while, techniques like seismic surveys may require land access and exploration permits depending on whether the land and/or geothermal rights are owned by federal, state, tribal, or private parties. Invasive techniques are those that cause a significant disturbance to the land. Examples include reflection seismology that requires explosives, core hole drilling, and temperature gradient wells. Invasive techniques may require the developer to obtain surface and mineral rights or a geothermal lease, land access permits, construction permits, drilling permits, and water rights. In addition, a developer may be required to pay royalties on production from exploratory wells.

The types of techniques used and permits required will depend on where the exploration takes place. Issues, including land access, geothermal leasing, exploration regulation, and drilling regulation all vary depending on whether the land and/or geothermal rights are owned by federal, state, tribal, or private parties.
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Exploration Permit Agency (Pre Drilling)
Exploration Permit (Pre Drilling)
Exploration Permit Agency (Drilling)
Exploration Permit (Drilling)
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
Alaska Division of Oil and Gas
A plan of exploration must be submitted for any exploratory activities under a noncompetitive or competitive leased property in Alaska. If the developer wishes to explore before initiating the leasing process on state lands, they should pursue either a geothermal exploration permit or a geophysical exploration permit. Before initiating any form of exploration or prospecting activities that would otherwise require a land use permit under 11 AAC 96, the developer must receive an approved plan of exploration from the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. A Geophysical Exploration Permit is necessary for conducting seismic surveys on state lands and waters. These studies help to identify geological structures with potential accumulations of oil or gas.
Alaska Division of Oil and Gas
All wells drilled in support or in search of the recovery or production of geothermal resources must comply with 20 AAC 25.705-.740. The developer should submit a Permit to Drill (Form 10-401) before drilling or redrilling a well or re-entering an abandoned well (20 AAC 25.005). Upon application, the AOGCC will classify a well as:
  • exploratory;
  • development, either oil or gas;
  • service; or
  • stratigraphic test.
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
County or Local Government
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.
California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources
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.
ColoradoX
Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners
Before any pre-drilling exploration activity can take place on State Land Board-administered land, a Geothermal Exploration Lease is required from the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners. For exploration activities on private land, pre-drilling exploration activities are permitted at the local level.
Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners
Before any exploration drilling activity can take place on State Land Board-administered land, a Geothermal Exploration Lease is required from the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners. In addition, well drilling associated with geothermal exploration and development requires permits from the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service
Bureau of Land Management
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division
A developer is required to obtain a Geothermal Exploration Permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division to conduct any exploration activity on state or reserved lands for evidence of geothermal resources, including geophysical operations, construction of roads and trials, and vehicle travel.
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division
Drilling of shallow temperature test holes less than 500 feet in depth or less requires a Geothermal Exploration Permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division. A developer seeking to drill, modify, or modify the use of a well for exploration or development must receive a drilling or modification permit prior to conducting the operation.
IdahoX
Idaho Department of Water Resources
In Idaho, no permit is needed for general geothermal exploration on private or state lands.
Idaho Department of Water Resources
Developers must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the Idaho Department of Water Resources (DWR) prior to drilling small exploratory wells less than six inches in diameter and less than 1000 feet deep. A well drilling permit is required for any drilling activity that will encounter groundwater and specifically for exploration wells that are drilled for the discovery and/or evaluation of geothermal resources either in an established geothermal field or in unexplored areas. "Exploratory well" is a well drilled for the discovery and/or evaluation of geothermal resources either in an established geothermal field or in unexplored areas. "Exploratory well" does not include holes six (6) inches in diameter or less if they are used for gathering geotechnical data such as, but not limited to, heat flow, earth temperature, temperature gradient and/or seismic measurements, provided said holes are not greater than one thousand (1000) feet in depth below land surface and provided the material medium is not intended to be encountered. Exploration wells and production wells are both covered under the Permit to Drill for Geothermal Resources.
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Developers exploring for geothermal resources in Montana must file a Geothermal Exploration Plan with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. In addition, developers seeking to conduct exploration activities (not amounting to drilling/well field development) for geothermal resources in Montana must file a Notice of Intent (NOI) with the county clerk and recorder of the applicable county prior to conducting the exploration. MCA 82-1-103.
Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation
Currently, Montana does not have a well established process for obtaining a permit to drill for geothermal resources required for exploration drilling activities. Interested developers should contact the MDNRC for information and requirements.
NebraskaX
NevadaX
Nevada Division of Minerals
On Nevada state lands, no geothermal exploration permit is required for geothermal exploration not involving drilling (pre-drilling exploration).
Nevada Division of Minerals
If a developer plans on drilling a single well, the developer must submit an application for a permit to drill or operate an individual geothermal well to the Nevada Division of Minerals on a form provided by the Administrator. Except as otherwise provided in NAC 534A.196.

If a developer plans on drilling multiple exploratory wells in a defined project area, the developer must submit a Geothermal Project Area Permit application to the Nevada Division of Minerals.

If a developer plans to make minor changes to an existing well, the developer must submit a Sundry Notice to the Nevada Division of Minerals
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department
No permit required if the activity does not significantly damage or alter the land. Geophysical Exploration Permit for all other non-drilling exploration.
New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department
Permit to Drill
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
Oregon State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Oregon Division of State Lands
No person shall explore by any means whatever on, in, or under land owned by the State of Oregon and under the jurisdiction of the Division of State Lands to detect or assess geothermal resources without a permit or lease issued pursuant to these regulations and under authority of ORS 273.551. Any person engaging in onshore exploration that disturbs more than one surface acre or involves drilling to greater than 50 feet shall obtain an exploration permit.
Oregon State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Oregon Division of State Lands
No person shall engage in drilling a prospect well without first obtaining a permit issued under the authority of the State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and without complying with the conditions of such permit.
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
Texas General Land Office
In Texas, geothermal exploration on state lands or lands with state interests require either a Prospect Permit or a Geothermal Lease from the Texas General Land Office (GLO). In addition, a If the developer will conduct seismic work on state lands, then they must also obtain a Seismic Permit from the GLO.
Railroad Commission of Texas
Regardless of who owns of the surface rights and mineral rights, a developer is required to obtain a drilling permit from the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) before conducting any exploration drilling.
UtahX
Utah Division of Water Rights
In Utah, no exploration permit is required for non-invasive exploration activities, i.e., activities that fall short of drilling for the discovery or production of geothermal resources.
Utah Division of Water Rights
Developers must submit a Notice of Intent with the Division for review before drilling, redrilling, deepening, permanently altering the casing of, or abandoning a well.
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Land Use License
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Drilling Permit
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Drilling & Well Development Comparison

Land Use Plans (LUPs) are used by local, state and federal agencies to manage public lands and they form the basis for every action and approved use of those lands. Different agencies will refer to LUPs by different names, but all LUPs serve the same purpose; to dictate what actions can and cannot be taken on the managed unit of land. Non-conforming uses require a LUP be amended or revised before a right-of-way or special use permit can be authorized. In addition, some state and local land may be governed by state LUPs. A developer should check to see if a LUP is applicable to the project site, and if so, whether the LUP allows for utility-scale solar development. If the LUP does not allow for utility-scale solar development, the developer should initiate the state or local land use plan amendment process.
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Drilling & Well Field Permit
Drilling & Well Field Permit Agency
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
All wells drilled in support or in search of the recovery or production of geothermal resources must comply with 20 AAC 25.705-.740. The developer should submit a Permit to Drill (Form 10-401) before drilling or redrilling a well or re-entering an abandoned well (20 AAC 25.005). Upon application, the AOGCC will classify a well as:
  • exploratory;
  • development, either oil or gas;
  • service; or
  • stratigraphic test.
Alaska Division of Oil and Gas
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
Before drilling can commense, an approved Notice of Intention (NOI) to Drill (OGG105) must be approved by the appropriated DOGGR District Office. The application is required for temperature gradient wells, exploratory wells, Observation wells and injection wells.
California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources
ColoradoX
A permit issued by the State Engineer must be obtained prior to construction or use of any geothermal well. According to the Office of the State Engineer's Rules and Regulations for Permitting the Development and Appropriation of Geothermal Resources Through the Use of Wells, “Geothermal Well” means a well that is constructed for the purpose of exploration, use of a geothermal resource, or reinjection of a geothermal fluid.
Colorado Division of Water Resources
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
Bureau of Land Management
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
A developer seeking to drill, modify, or modify the use of a well for exploration or development must receive a drilling or modification permit prior to conducting the operation.
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division
IdahoX
Any person, owner or operator who proposes to construct a well for the production of geothermal resources or to construct an injection well must obtain a Permit to Drill for Geothermal Resources from the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
Idaho Department of Water Resources
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
Currently, Montana does not have a well-established process for obtaining a permit to drill for geothermal resources. Interested developers should contact the MDNRC for information and requirements.
Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation
NebraskaX
NevadaX
If a developer plans on drilling a single well, the developer must submit an application for a permit to drill or operate an individual geothermal well to the Nevada Division of Minerals on a form provided by the Administrator. Except as otherwise provided in NAC 534A.196.

If a developer plans on drilling multiple exploratory wells in a defined project area, the developer must submit a Geothermal Project Area Permit application to the Nevada Division of Minerals.

If a developer plans to make minor changes to an existing well, the developer must submit a Sundry Notice to the Nevada Division of Minerals
Nevada Division of Minerals
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
Permit to Drill
New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
Developers seeking to commence drilling, redrilling, or deepening of a geothermal well must obtain a Geothermal Well Permit from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
Oregon State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) requires the appropriate drilling permits and supporting documentation for exploratory wells, commercial drilling operations, geothermal wells, and co-production wells.
Railroad Commission of Texas
UtahX
Developers must obtain approval from the Utah Division of Water Rights (Division) before conducting geothermal drilling operations where the geothermal resources are greater than 120°C. Developers must file a Notice of Intent to Drill (NOI) with the Division before drilling, redrilling, deepening, permanently altering the casing of, or abandoning a well.
Utah Division of Water Rights
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
Drilling Permit
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Power Plant Siting & Construction Comparison

The procedures necessary for power plant siting differ greatly depending on the proposed location of a project, the type of customers the plant will sell power to, and whether the power plant will sell power in “interstate commerce.” Siting procedures can be complex and contentious, especially when a proposed facility conflicts with other land uses, or is proposed in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas. Building a geothermal power plant usually requires permission from local, tribal, state or federal government entities. If the plant will be located on state land, the developer may be required to follow a state energy facility siting procedure. The process for obtaining a permit on state land differs from state-to-state, but each generally includes an application process, a time for public comment, and a process for appeals.

If the power plant will be located on federal land, the developer will be required to go through a Utilization Application Process. This process involves the development of a Utilization Plan. The developer will be required to submit a Utilization Plan, Operation Plan, and Draft Facility Construction Permit to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The plant commissioning process follows the implementation of a Utilization Plan.

If the power plant is a cogeneration facility or a small power production facility the developer may apply for certification as a Qualifying Facility under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) and receive special rate and regulatory treatment. A cogeneration facility is a generation facility that sequentially produces electricity and another form of useful thermal energy in a way that is more efficient than the separate production of both forms of energy.

If the power plant is an independent power producer, the plant may be exempt from certain federal regulations. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 created an exemption from the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) for ‘Exempt Wholesale Generators’ (EWG). EWGs include independent power producers that sell energy only to wholesale customers.

If the facility will be regulated by a state public utility regulatory authority, the facility will likely be required to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). The CPCN generally is necessary to establish a public need for the facility and the developer’s ability to fill that need. Some states do not regulate independent power producers if they do not sell power directly to the public because only developers that fall within the states’ definition of “public utility” will be regulated. Developers who are also public utilities will be regulated by the state utility regulatory authority and will likely be required to obtain a CPCN.
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Power Plant Siting
Power Plant Siting Agency
Power Plant Siting MW Threshold
Definition for Public Utility
Coordinating Permit Offices
Coordinating Permit Process
Coordinating Permit Offices MW Threshold
Coordinating Permit Offices Agency
Agencies Coordinating
Public Utility Regulatory Authority
Public Utility Regulatory Authority Certification MW Threshold
Public Utility Definition for Power Generator
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
A “public utility” or “utility” includes every corporation whether public, cooperative, or otherwise, company, individual, or association of individuals, their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by a court, that owns, operates, manages, or controls any plant, pipeline, or system for furnishing, by generation, transmission, or distribution, electrical service to the public for compensation.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Large Project Coordination Office
None
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Not specified
Regulatory Commission of Alaska
None
A “public utility” or “utility” includes every corporation whether public, cooperative, or otherwise, company, individual, or association of individuals, their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by a court, that owns, operates, manages, or controls any plant, pipeline, or system for furnishing, by generation, transmission, or distribution, electrical service to the public for compensation.
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
Developers must obtain licensing from the California Energy Commission (CEC) for construction of a thermal power plant with a net generating capacity of 50 MW or more and all related facilities dedicated or essential to the operation of the thermal power plant (e.g., transmission lines to first point of interconnection with the transmission grid, gas pipelines, water lines, access roads, etc.). The CEC may delegate siting authority over geothermal power plants and related facilities to county governments which have adopted geothermal elements into their general plants. The county must demonstrate a capability to expeditiously process applications, and their policies must be consistent with CEC’s policies for the development of geothermal resources. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25540.5.
California Energy Commission
50 MW net generating capacity
“Public utilities” includes an “electric corporation…where the service is performed for, or commodity is delivered to, the public or any portion thereof.” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 216. An “electric corporation” includes “every corporation or person owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electric plant for compensation within this state, except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer through private property solely for its own use or the use of its tenants and not for sale or transmission to others.” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 218.
California Public Utilities Commission
50 MW net generating capacity
“Public utilities” includes an “electric corporation…where the service is performed for, or commodity is delivered to, the public or any portion thereof.” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 216. An “electric corporation” includes “every corporation or person owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electric plant for compensation within this state, except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer through private property solely for its own use or the use of its tenants and not for sale or transmission to others.” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 218.
ColoradoX
None
The term 'public utility'...includes "every...electrical corporation...operating for the purpose of supplying the public for domestic, mechanical, or public uses and every corporation, or person declared by law to be affected with a public interest, and each of the preceding is hereby declared to be a public utility and to be subject to the jurisdiction, control, and regulation of the commission..." In addition "[e]very cooperative electric association, or nonprofit electric corporation or association, and every other supplier of electric energy, whether supplying electric energy for the use of the public or for the use of its own members, is hereby declared to be affected with a public interest and to be a public utility and to be subject to the jurisdiction, control, and regulation of the commission and to the provisions of articles 1 to 7 of this title." CRS 40-1-103.
Colorado Public Utilities Commission
10 MW
The term 'public utility'...includes "every...electrical corporation...operating for the purpose of supplying the public for domestic, mechanical, or public uses and every corporation, or person declared by law to be affected with a public interest, and each of the preceding is hereby declared to be a public utility and to be subject to the jurisdiction, control, and regulation of the commission..." In addition "[e]very cooperative electric association, or nonprofit electric corporation or association, and every other supplier of electric energy, whether supplying electric energy for the use of the public or for the use of its own members, is hereby declared to be affected with a public interest and to be a public utility and to be subject to the jurisdiction, control, and regulation of the commission and to the provisions of articles 1 to 7 of this title." CRS 40-1-103.
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
Utilization Application Process
Bureau of Land Management
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
To construct a geothermal power plant and deepwater cable system to transmit the energy from one island to another, developers must obtain a Geothermal/Cable Development Consolidated Permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources
None
Hawaii defines "public utility" in Hawaii Revised Statues 269-1 to include every person who may own, control, operate, or manage…any plant or equipment, or any part thereof, directly or indirectly for public use…for production, conveyance, transmission, delivery, or furnishing of light, power, heat, cold, water, gar, or oil. However, the definition of public utility does not include any user, owner, or operator of the Hawaii Electric System. Hawaii Revised Statutes 269-141 defines "User, owner, or operator of the Hawaii electric system" as any person, business, organization, or other entity who:
(1) Owns, controls, operates, or manages plants or facilities for the generation, transmission, or furnishing of electricity; and
(2) Provides, sells, or transmits all of that electricity, except such electricity as is used in its own internal operations or is used for its own consumption, directly to a public utility for either transmission or distribution to the public.
Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism;
To construct a geothermal power plant through a streamlined permitting process, developers must follow the Renewable Energy Facility Siting Process through the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT). The process is regulated under H.R.S. 201N and H.A.R. 15-36.
The streamlined process allows proposed facilities qualifying for the process, including all renewable energy facilities over 200 MW and certain renewable energy facilities over 5 MW.
Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism
The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) will coordinate all state and local agencies from which a permit is required. In addition, DBEDT will assist where possible in obtaining federal permits.
Hawaii Public Utilities Commission
None
Hawaii defines "public utility" in Hawaii Revised Statues 269-1 to include every person who may own, control, operate, or manage…any plant or equipment, or any part thereof, directly or indirectly for public use…for production, conveyance, transmission, delivery, or furnishing of light, power, heat, cold, water, gar, or oil. However, the definition of public utility does not include any user, owner, or operator of the Hawaii Electric System. Hawaii Revised Statutes 269-141 defines "User, owner, or operator of the Hawaii electric system" as any person, business, organization, or other entity who:
(1) Owns, controls, operates, or manages plants or facilities for the generation, transmission, or furnishing of electricity; and
(2) Provides, sells, or transmits all of that electricity, except such electricity as is used in its own internal operations or is used for its own consumption, directly to a public utility for either transmission or distribution to the public.
IdahoX
None
The term "public utility" includes every common carrier, pipeline corporation, gas corporation, electrical corporation, telephone corporation and water corporation. IC 61-129. Electrical Corporation includes “every corporation or person, their lessees, trustees, receivers or trustees appointed by any court whatsoever, owning, controlling, operating or managing any electric plant for compensation within this state, except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer through private property alone, solely for his own use or the use of his tenants and not for sale to others, and excepting also, where the electricity is to be used exclusively in operations incident to the working of metalliferous mines and mining claims, mills, or reduction and smelting plants, and the transmission lines and distribution systems are owned by the consumer or where several consumers severally own their individual distribution systems and jointly own, in their own names or through a trustee, the transmission lines used in connection therewith and transmit such electricity, whether generated by themselves or procured from some other source, over such transmission lines and distribution systems without profit, and to be used for their private uses for the purposes aforesaid in places outside the limits of incorporated cities, towns and villages, and not for resale or public use, sale or distribution.” IC 61-119.
None
Idaho Public Utilities Commission
None
The term "public utility" includes every common carrier, pipeline corporation, gas corporation, electrical corporation, telephone corporation and water corporation. IC 61-129. Electrical Corporation includes “every corporation or person, their lessees, trustees, receivers or trustees appointed by any court whatsoever, owning, controlling, operating or managing any electric plant for compensation within this state, except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer through private property alone, solely for his own use or the use of his tenants and not for sale to others, and excepting also, where the electricity is to be used exclusively in operations incident to the working of metalliferous mines and mining claims, mills, or reduction and smelting plants, and the transmission lines and distribution systems are owned by the consumer or where several consumers severally own their individual distribution systems and jointly own, in their own names or through a trustee, the transmission lines used in connection therewith and transmit such electricity, whether generated by themselves or procured from some other source, over such transmission lines and distribution systems without profit, and to be used for their private uses for the purposes aforesaid in places outside the limits of incorporated cities, towns and villages, and not for resale or public use, sale or distribution.” IC 61-119.
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
Montana Major Facility Siting Act governs the siting of energy facilities in Montana.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
50 MW or more.
A “public utility” includes every corporation, both public and private, company, individual, association of individuals, and their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by any court that own, operate, or control any plant or equipment, any part of a plant or equipment, or any water right within the state for the production, delivery, or furnishing for or to other persons, firms, associations, or corporations, private or municipal: heat; street-railway service; light; power in any form or by any agency; water for business, manufacturing, household use, or sewerage service, whether within the limits of municipalities or towns or elsewhere; regulated telecommunications service.
None
A “public utility” includes every corporation, both public and private, company, individual, association of individuals, and their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by any court that own, operate, or control any plant or equipment, any part of a plant or equipment, or any water right within the state for the production, delivery, or furnishing for or to other persons, firms, associations, or corporations, private or municipal: heat; street-railway service; light; power in any form or by any agency; water for business, manufacturing, household use, or sewerage service, whether within the limits of municipalities or towns or elsewhere; regulated telecommunications service.
NebraskaX
NevadaX
None
The term “public utility” includes “any plant or equipment, or any part of a plant or equipment, within this State for the production, delivery or furnishing for or to other persons, including private or municipal corporations, heat, gas, coal slurry, light, power in any form or by an agency, water for business, manufacturing, agricultural or household use, or sewerage service, whether or not within the limits of municipalities.” [[NRS 704 - Regulation of Public Utilities Generally | NRS 704.020(2)(a)]].
None
Public Utilities Commission of Nevada
The term “public utility” includes “any plant or equipment, or any part of a plant or equipment, within this State for the production, delivery or furnishing for or to other persons, including private or municipal corporations, heat, gas, coal slurry, light, power in any form or by an agency, water for business, manufacturing, agricultural or household use, or sewerage service, whether or not within the limits of municipalities.” [[NRS 704 - Regulation of Public Utilities Generally | NRS 704.020(2)(a)]].
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
None
Every person not engaged solely in interstate business and that may own, operate, lease or control any plant, property or facility for the generation, transmission or distribution, sale or furnishing to or for the public of electricity for light, heat or power or other uses. NMS 62-3.
None
New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
None
Every person not engaged solely in interstate business and that may own, operate, lease or control any plant, property or facility for the generation, transmission or distribution, sale or furnishing to or for the public of electricity for light, heat or power or other uses. NMS 62-3.
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
Standard State Power Plant Commissioning Process
Oregon Department of Energy
35 MW
A “public utility” is defined as any corporation, company, individual, association of individuals, or its lessees, trustees or receivers, that owns, operates, manages or controls all or a part of any plant or equipment in this state for the production, transmission, delivery or furnishing of heat, light, water or power, directly or indirectly to or for the public, whether or not such plant or equipment or part thereof is wholly within any town or city. The definition also includes entities in a formal written agreement with a utility. See OS 757.005(1)(a) for additional information.
None
A “public utility” is defined as any corporation, company, individual, association of individuals, or its lessees, trustees or receivers, that owns, operates, manages or controls all or a part of any plant or equipment in this state for the production, transmission, delivery or furnishing of heat, light, water or power, directly or indirectly to or for the public, whether or not such plant or equipment or part thereof is wholly within any town or city. The definition also includes entities in a formal written agreement with a utility. See OS 757.005(1)(a) for additional information.
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
Energy Facility Registration
Public Utility Commission of Texas
1 MW
A public utility is (1) a “retail electric utility” which is defined as a person, political subdivision, electric cooperative, or agency that operates, maintains, or controls a facility to provide retail electric utility service or (2) a person or river authority that owns or operates for compensation in this state equipment or facilities to convey, transmit, or receive communications over a telephone system as a dominant carrier. The term includes a lessee, trustee, or receiver of any of those entities, or a combination of those entities. The term does not include a municipal corporation.
None
Public Utility Commission of Texas
None
A public utility is a “retail electric utility” which is defined as a person, political subdivision, electric cooperative, or agency that operates, maintains, or controls a facility to provide retail electric utility service.
UtahX
None
“Public utilities” include "electrical corporations" which are defined in Utah Code 54-2-1(7) to include every corporation, cooperative association, and person, their lessees, trustees, and receivers, owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electric plant, or in any way furnishing electric power for public service or to its consumers or members for domestic, commercial, or industrial use, within this state, except independent energy producers, and except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer solely for the producer's own use, or the use of the producer's tenants, or for the use of members of an association of unit owners formed under Title 57, Chapter 8, Condominium Ownership Act, and not for sale to the public generally, and except where the electricity generated is consumed by an owner, lessor, or interest holder, or by an affiliate of an owner, lessor, or interest holder, who has provided at least $25,000,000 in value, including credit support, relating to the electric plant furnishing the electricity and whose consumption does not exceed its long-term entitlement in the plant under a long-term arrangement other than a power purchase agreement, except a power purchase agreement with an electrical corporation.
None
Utah Public Service Commission
None
“Public utilities” include "electrical corporations" which are defined in Utah Code 54-2-1(7) to include every corporation, cooperative association, and person, their lessees, trustees, and receivers, owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electric plant, or in any way furnishing electric power for public service or to its consumers or members for domestic, commercial, or industrial use, within this state, except independent energy producers, and except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer solely for the producer's own use, or the use of the producer's tenants, or for the use of members of an association of unit owners formed under Title 57, Chapter 8, Condominium Ownership Act, and not for sale to the public generally, and except where the electricity generated is consumed by an owner, lessor, or interest holder, or by an affiliate of an owner, lessor, or interest holder, who has provided at least $25,000,000 in value, including credit support, relating to the electric plant furnishing the electricity and whose consumption does not exceed its long-term entitlement in the plant under a long-term arrangement other than a power purchase agreement, except a power purchase agreement with an electrical corporation.

Utah defines an "independent energy producer" as every electrical corporation, person, corporation, or government entity, their lessees, trustees, or receivers, that own, operate, control, or manage an independent power production or cogeneration facility. Utah Code 54-2-1(15).

Utah defines an "independent power production facility as a facility that produces electric energy solely by the use, as a primary energy source, of biomass, waste, a renewable resource, a geothermal resource, or any combination of the preceding sources or is a qualifying power production facility. Utah Code 54-2-1(16).
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
Energy Facility Siting Certification
Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
None
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Transmission Comparison

Requirements for transmission and interconnection depend largely on the chosen location of the transmission lines. The developer may be required to acquire a federal right-of-way, obtain approval from state or local governments, or go through a state encroachment process.

If the developer will need to connect transmission lines to the grid, then they must obtain an interconnection agreement. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requires all public utilities that own, control, or operate facilities used for transmitting electric energy in interstate commerce to have on file standard procedures and a standard agreement for interconnecting generators. If the project will interconnect with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), then the transmission process is particularly unique and specific rules and procedures will apply.

The Federal Power Act (FPA) directs the Department of Energy to deal with transmission congestion problems through designating geographic areas of special significance where consumers have been negatively affected called National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. The designation could provide FERC with limited siting authority pursuant to the FPA under certain circumstances.

The developer will be required to obtain a federal right-of-way if transmission lines will go through federal lands. If the project will be located on state lands, then the developer will need to get the approval of any relevant state or local authority. This generally requires the developer to obtain an encroachment permit. Any access needed through private lands will require negotiation for right-of-way access or eminent domain proceedings.
More Information

Topic to Compare

Transmission Siting Agency
Transmission Siting
Transmission Siting Threshold
Public Utility Definition for Transmission Facility
Public Utility Regulatory Authority Certification Transmission Threshold
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
Regulatory Commission of Alaska
In Alaska, public utilities are required to obtain a CPCN from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska unless exempted through AS 42.05.711.
In Alaska, "public utility' includes every corporation whether public, cooperative, or otherwise, company, individual, or association of individuals, their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by a court, that owns, operates, manages, or controls any plant, pipeline, or system for furnishing, by generation, transmission, or distribution, electrical service to the public for compensation. See AS 42.05.990(5) for additional information.
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
California Energy Commission
In California, transmission lines set to operate with a voltage between 50 kV and 200 kV must obtain a permit to construct from the CPUC unless it qualifies for an exemption. Transmission lines set to operate with a voltage higher than 200 kV must obtain a CPCN from the CPUC. Transmission lines with a voltage under 50 kV require the developer to comply with local requirements. In addition, generation interconnection lines for power plants under the jurisdiction of the California Energy Commission (CEC) are sited as part of the CEC's power plant siting process.
Transmission lines under 50 kV.
In California, transmission facilities are covered by the definition of 'public utility.' A "public utility" includes every common carrier, toll bridge corporation, pipeline corporation, gas corporation, electrical corporation, telephone corporation, telegraph corporation, water corporation, sewer system corporation, and heat corporation, where the service is performed for, or the commodity is delivered to, the public or any portion thereof. A 'transmission line' has a voltage over 200 kV. A 'power line' has a voltage between 50 and 200 kV. A 'distribution line' has a voltage under 50 kV.
Transmission lines must be 50 kV or greater.
ColoradoX
Colorado Public Utilities Commission
Local Process
No threshold provided
“Public utility” is defined, in part, as “…every…electrical corporation…person or municipality operating for the purpose of supplying the public for domestic, mechanical or public uses, and every corporation or person declared by law to be affected with a public interest…” C.R.S. 40-1-103(1)(a)(I). “Person” is defined as “any individual, firm, partnership, corporation, company, association, joint stock association, and other legal entity.” C.R.S. 40-1-102(10). CEAs are utilities that are owned by the member-consumers they serve and regulated by those member-consumers, acting through an elected governing body. C.R.S. 40-9.5-101.
Varies, with a minimum of 115 kV.
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
Hawaii Public Utilities Commission
A developer must obtain Transmission Line Approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to interconnect a proposed renewable energy project to the existing grid.
No threshold provided
In Hawaii, transmission facilities are covered by the definition of 'public utility.' Statutes define "public utility" in Hawaii Revised Statues 269-1 to include every person who may own, control, operate, or manage…any plant or equipment, or any part thereof, directly or indirectly for public use…for production, conveyance, transmission, delivery, or furnishing of light, power, heat, cold, water, gas, or oil.
No threshold provided
IdahoX
Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Idaho has a decentralized transmission siting system wherein local authorities have siting authority for all transmission lines. Developer must work with local city planning and zoning commissions for location of the lines. Developers seeking to site transmission facilities in excess of 115kV capacity in NIETC corridors must obtain a route certificate from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
NIETC - 115kV
The term "public utility" includes every common carrier, pipeline corporation, gas corporation, electrical corporation, telephone corporation and water corporation. IC 61-129. Electrical Corporation includes “every corporation or person, their lessees, trustees, receivers or trustees appointed by any court whatsoever, owning, controlling, operating or managing any electric plant for compensation within this state, except where electricity is generated on or distributed by the producer through private property alone, solely for his own use or the use of his tenants and not for sale to others, and excepting also, where the electricity is to be used exclusively in operations incident to the working of metalliferous mines and mining claims, mills, or reduction and smelting plants, and the transmission lines and distribution systems are owned by the consumer or where several consumers severally own their individual distribution systems and jointly own, in their own names or through a trustee, the transmission lines used in connection therewith and transmit such electricity, whether generated by themselves or procured from some other source, over such transmission lines and distribution systems without profit, and to be used for their private uses for the purposes aforesaid in places outside the limits of incorporated cities, towns and villages, and not for resale or public use, sale or distribution.” IC 61-119.
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Certificate of compliance is generally obtained through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality under Montana Code Annotated Title 75, Chapter 20 for regulated transmission facilities which will produce more than 69 kV and are not exempt. If the facility is exempt or has a capacity of less than 69 kV and private parties own more than 75% of the property along the centerline of the transmission path, then the developer must obtain a right-of-way.
Transmission lines of a design capacity of more than 69 kV, not exempt, and where private parties own less than 75 percent of the property along the center line of the transmission path must complete the siting process. See Montana MCA 75-20-104(8) for additional information.
In Montana, transmission facilities are covered by the definition of 'public utility.' A “public utility” includes every corporation, both public and private, company, individual, association of individuals, and their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by any court that own, operate, or control any plant or equipment, any part of a plant or equipment, or any water right within the state for the production, delivery, or furnishing for or to other persons, firms, associations, or corporations, private or municipal: heat; street-railway service; light; power in any form or by any agency; water for business, manufacturing, household use, or sewerage service, whether within the limits of municipalities or towns or elsewhere; regulated telecommunications service.
No threshold provided.
NebraskaX
NevadaX
Public Utilities Commission of Nevada
Special Use Permit if outside an above ground utility corridor.
The term “public utility” includes “any plant or equipment, or any part of a plant or equipment, within this State for the production, delivery or furnishing for or to other persons, including private or municipal corporations, heat, gas, coal slurry, light, power in any form or by any agency, water for business, manufacturing, agricultural or household use, or sewerage service, whether or not within the limits of municipalities.” NRS 704.020(2)(a).
None
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
Location Permit Process
230 kV
Every person not engaged solely in interstate business and that may own, operate, lease or control any plant, property or facility for the generation, transmission or distribution, sale or furnishing to or for the public of electricity for light, heat or power or other uses. NMS 62-3.
None
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
Oregon Department of Energy, Oregon Public Utility Commission
The developer must obtain approval through the Oregon Department of Energy's Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council or through the local land use authorities. Transmission facilities which will have a capacity less than 230 kV and less than 10 miles in length are required to obtain consent from local land use authorities.
Transmission lines must be greater than or equal to 230 kV and 10 miles in length.
In Oregon, a “public utility” is defined as any corporation, company, individual, association of individuals, or its lessees, trustees or receivers, that owns, operates, manages or controls all or a part of any plant or equipment in this state for the production, transmission, delivery or furnishing of heat, light, water or power, directly or indirectly to or for the public, whether or not such plant or equipment or part thereof is wholly within any town or city. The definition also includes entities in a formal written agreement with a utility. See OS 757.005(1)(a) for additional information.
No threshold provided.
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
Public Utility Commission of Texas
Notice must be provided to affected land owners, utilities, and localities. If transmission lines will be sited through the jurisdiction of a local government, the developer will need to obtain any necessary permits or consent in order to complete an application for CCN. Once siting is approved, the developer will have to negotiate with the land owner/managing agency for any lease or right of way needed.
All transmission siting is governed by the PUCT.
Public Utility includes (1) "Electric utility" which is as a person or river authority that owns or operates for compensation in this state equipment or facilities to produce, generate, transmit, distribute, sell, or furnish electricity in this state. The term includes a lessee, trustee, or receiver of an electric utility.
No threshold provided. Siting requirements do not apply to "routine activities."
UtahX
Utah Public Service Commission
Developers must obtain approval from the Utah Public Service Commission (UPSC) to construct high voltage power lines pursuant to the Siting of High Voltage Power Line Act if they qualify as a “public utility.”
Minimum nominal voltage of 230 kV. The line must be located on state land for this to apply.
“Public utilities” include “electric corporations,” which are defined, in part, as “every corporation, cooperative association, and person, their lessees, trustees, and receivers, owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electrical plant, or in any way furnishing electric power for public service or to its customers or members for domestic, commercial, or industrial use.” Utah Code Ann. 54-2-1(7)(a).
None
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
Transmission Siting Certification
Certification is option, but the siting thresholds are as follows:
  • Facility with a nominal voltage of at least 115,000 volts, and is proposed to be located in a completely new corridor which is located in more than one jurisdiction where at least one such jurisdiction has promulgated land use plans or zoning ordinances.
  • Facility with a nominal voltage in excess of 115,000 volts, and is proposed to be located outside an existing or designated electrical transmission corridor identified in the previous two categories.
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Environmental Review Comparison

A typical utility-scale solar project will raise numerous environmental issues that require permitting and/or regulatory approval from federal and state agencies. The environmental law in the United States is governed by federal law that is administered by both federal and state agencies, as well as state environmental laws that either complement federal law or go above and beyond it. The federal government and individual states may require reviews, permits or approvals for cultural resources, biological resources, sensitive land use, water resources, air quality and hazardous waste and materials management and disposal.

Topic to Compare

Environmental Review Process
Environmental Review Process Agency
Environmental Review (Leasing Stage)
Environmental Review (Non-invasive Exploration)
Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration)
Environmental Review (Drilling)
Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting)
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
Best Interest Finding if the project requires the State of Alaska to sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of state land.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Best Interest Finding
None
None
None
None
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
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.
California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, California Energy Commission
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.
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.
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.
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.
ColoradoX
None
None
None
None
None
None
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Energy, United States Department of Defense
Typically an Environmental Assessment (EA) is conducted for individual leases. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may be required for programmatic environmental reviews or when reviewing multiple lease parcels in a single review.
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.
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.
Production drilling activities will likely require an EA, but depending on the nature of the specific project, could require an EIS.
Most Plans of Utilization (POU)s require an EA or EIS.
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA)
Hawaii Department of Health Office of Environmental Quality Control
None
None
HEPA Process
HEPA Process
HEPA Process
IdahoX
None
None
None
None
None
None
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
If a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) .
Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council
None
None
MEPA review process
MEPA review process
MEPA review process
NebraskaX
NevadaX
Nevada Utility Environmental Protection Act
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
None
None
None
None
Nevada Utility Environmental Protection Act review process
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
None
None
None
None
None
None
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
None
None
None
None
None
None
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
None
None
None
None
None
None
UtahX
Energy Pre-Design Program (voluntary environmental permit coordination process).
Utah Department of Environmental Quality
None
None
None
None
None
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
The Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires all governmental agencies to consider the environmental impacts of a proposal before making decisions.
Washington Department of Natural Resources
Permits from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for drilling for which no public hearing is required under RCW 79.76.070 are exempted from SEPA requirements (geothermal test drilling). WAC 197-11-830.
Permits from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for drilling for which no public hearing is required under RCW 79.76.070 are exempted from SEPA requirements (geothermal test drilling). WAC 197-11-830.
SEPA environmental review
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX

Geothermal Water Access & Rights Comparison

Water rights are important to a geothermal project not only because geothermal drilling operations and geothermal plant operations require water, but because in some states geothermal resources are classified as water resources and require a water right or use permit.

Water access and water rights are predominantly handled at the state level. A developer may require water for such uses as dust suppression for roads, construction activities, drilling operations, extraction of geothermal resources, and plant cooling operations. Depending on the situation and demands of a project, a developer may seek water through a lease holder, a municipality, or a permanent water right.

Water rights are typically divided into surface water and ground water rights. In the western United States, surface water rights are generally governed by a system called prior appropriation (where water rights are acquired through priority and beneficial use). While in the eastern United States, surface water rights are governed by a system known as riparian rights (where water rights are obtained by having land that is adjacent to a stream or river). Ground water rights are governed by a diverse set of rules depending on the state. States may employ the rule of capture (where a land owner is able to use as much water as he/she can pump), limit the rule of capture through conservation laws, include ground water in the prior appropriation system, or include only tributary ground water (ground water that is hydraulically connected to surface water) in the prior appropriation system.
More Information

Topic to Compare

Water Right Agency
Water Right Classification
Geothermal Right Classification
Is a Water Right Required to Pump Geothermal Fluids?
AlabamaX
AlaskaX
Alaska Division of Mining Land and Water
Prior Appropriation
(Mineral and water) In Alaska, waters with temperatures lower than 120 degrees Celsius are available for appropriation as groundwater, and subject to state water law. Waters above this mark are treated as geothermal resources and owned by the state regardless of surface ownership. Alaska does, however, give surface owners a preferential right to prospecting or leasing the geothermal right.
Yes if below 120 degrees Celsius
ArizonaX
ArkansasX
CaliforniaX
California State Water Resources Control Board
Hybrid of Prior Appropriation and Riparian Right
(Mineral) California defines ownership of geothermal resources as whomever owns the mineral estate. A geothermal resource is defined as "the natural heat of the earth, the energy, in whatever form, below the surface of the earth."
No
ColoradoX
Colorado Ground Water Commission, Colorado Division of Water Resources
(Mineral and water) In Colorado geothermal resources are considered water rights on private lands, but mineral rights on state and federal lands. However, if the geothermal resource is classified as a mineral right, only the heat is classified as a mineral.
Yes - The use of water as a material medium is recognized as a beneficial use of such water. All applications to appropriate groundwater in order to utilize its geothermal energy shall be considered an application to appropriate geothermal fluid. (2) (a) Prior to the production of geothermal fluid from a well, other than for flow-testing purposes, a permit to appropriate shall be obtained from the state engineer. This requirement shall not apply to nondiversionary utilization methods (i.e., non-consumptive uses of the geothermal fluids); however, such exemption shall not prevent the developer of a geothermal resource from establishing a property right based on his actual utilization.
ConnecticutX
DelawareX
FederalX
None. Water rights classifications are defined at the state-level.
Geothermal resources include:
  1. All products of geothermal processes, including indigenous steam, hot water, and hot brines;
  2. Steam and other gases, hot water, and hot brines resulting from water, gas, or other fluids artificially introduced into geothermal formations;
  3. Heat or other associated energy found in geothermal formations; and
  4. Any byproducts.
43 CFR 3200.1.
Given the rights conveyed and the applicable definition of “geothermal resources,” developers do not need to obtain a state water right related to the extraction of hot water and brines that are part of the geothermal resource/formation. The right to extract water, brines, and fluids for the purposes of geothermal development is inherent in the rights conveyed under a federal geothermal lease.
FloridaX
GeorgiaX
HawaiiX
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Commission on Water Resource Management
Permit System - Water is a public trust
(Mineral) In Hawai'i geothermal resources are included within the definition of mineral (HRS 523A-2). Hawai'i state law also excludes from the definition of a geothermal resource any fluids having a temperature less than 150 degrees Fahrenheit and not being used for electrical generation (HRS 182-1). Hawai'i also claims ownership of geothermal resources on all state and reserved lands. "Reserved lands" are those owned or leased by any person in which the state has reserved to itself, expressly or by implication, the minerals or the right to mine minerals, or both. "State lands" includes all public and other lands owned by or in the possession, use and control of the State of Hawai'i.
No
IdahoX
Idaho Department of Water Resources
Prior Appropriation
(Sui generis and water)

Groundwater having a temperature greater than 212 degrees Fahrenheit at the well bottom is classified as a "geothermal resource" (IC 42-4002(c)). Water between 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 212 degrees Fahrenheit at the well bottom is classified as a "low temperature geothermal resource." Idaho claims ownership of all geothermal resources underlying state and school trust lands. Idaho also claims the right to regulate development and use of all of the state's geothermal resources.

The use of geothermal resources does not require a permit to appropriate water in Idaho unless it will decrease groundwater in any aquifer or other groundwater source or measurably decrease groundwater available from prior water rights. However, the use of low temperature geothermal resources does require a permit to appropriate water.
The use of geothermal resources does not require a permit to appropriate water in Idaho unless it will decrease groundwater in any aquifer or other groundwater source or measurably decrease groundwater available from prior water rights. However, the use of low temperature geothermal resources does require a permit to appropriate water. Preliminary Site Considerations
IllinoisX
IndianaX
IowaX
KansasX
KentuckyX
LouisianaX
MaineX
MarylandX
MassachusettsX
MichiganX
MinnesotaX
MississippiX
MissouriX
MontanaX
Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation
Prior Appropriation
(Sui generis) On state lands, geothermal resources are owned by Montana as part of their mineral reservation. Geothermal resources are defined as the natural heat of the earth, including the energy, in whatever form in Montana (MCA 77-4-102). State water laws apply to all geothermal developments involving the production and diversion of geothermal fluids, unless an exception applies. Montana does label groundwater as a public reserve that must be appropriated for beneficial use.
Yes, unless an exception applies. State water laws apply to all geothermal developments involving the production and diversion of geothermal fluids, unless the limited exception in MCA 85-2-306(3) applies. Nonconsumptive closed-loop geothermal development not within the boundaries of the controlled groundwater area may fit within the exception. Montana does label groundwater as a public reserve that must be appropriated for beneficial use. Preliminary Site Considerations
NebraskaX
NevadaX
Nevada Division of Water Resources
Prior Appropriation
(Mineral and water) Geothermal resources in Nevada belong to the owner of the surface estate, unless they have been specifically reserved by or conveyed to another person. Geothermal resources are severable from the surface estate much like a normal mineral estate in Nevada. The geothermal resource includes the natural heat of the earth, pressure and all dissolved or entrained minerals...excluding hydrocarbons and helium (NRS 534A.010).
Under Nevada Revised Statutes 534A.040 only consumptive uses of water brought to the surface outside of a geothermal well are subject to the appropriation procedures of NRS 533 and 534 unless:
  • The water that is removed from an aquifer or geothermal reservoir to develop and obtain geothermal resources is returned to or reinjected into the same aquifer or reservoir; or
  • Reasonable loss of water results from geothermal well testing or temporary failure of all or part of a system that removes water from an aquifer or geothermal reservoir, transfers the heat from the water and reinjects that water into the same aquifer or reservoir.
New HampshireX
New JerseyX
New MexicoX
New Mexico Office of the State Engineer
Prior Appropriation
Mineral and Water
Geothermal resources are classified similar to minerals if the water temperature is greater than 250 degrees Fahrenheit. However, use of the geothermal resources cannot impair existing water rights and all diverted ground water must be reinjected.
Geothermal resources are classified as water rights if the water temperature is less than 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
No, if the water is over 250 degrees Fahrenheit and all diverted ground water is reinjected as soon as practicable into the same ground water source, resulting in no new new depletions.
New YorkX
North CarolinaX
North DakotaX
OhioX
OklahomaX
OregonX
Oregon Water Resources Department
Prior Appropriation
(Mineral and water) Geothermal resources are characterized in Oregon as water if the bottom hole temperature is less than 250 degrees Fahrenheit and as a mineral if the bottom hole temperature is greater than 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Oregon claims ownership of all geothermal resources located on state land and some resources on land previously owned by the state, see ORS 273.775 to 273.790.
Yes, if the bottom hole temperature is less than 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
PennsylvaniaX
Rhode IslandX
South CarolinaX
South DakotaX
TennesseeX
TexasX
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Prior Appropriation, some pre-1967 raparian rights remain
There is some discrepancy in Texas as to whether geothermal energy is regulated as a mineral right. The statutory definition of “mineral” is the source of the uncertainty since statute describes geothermal energy as a mineral right. Per TX NR Code 141.003, geothermal energy includes the heat and any associated resource, therefore a developer can utilize gas and oil that come up when drilling for geothermal resources.
There is a discrepancy as to whether geothermal water, including injected water, is regulated as water or as a mineral due to the high salt content of the water. [From Texas GRR Meeting-2013_06_12_TX_flowchart_workshop_minutes.docx]
UtahX
Utah Division of Water Rights
Prior Appropriation
(Water)

Ownership of geothermal resources derives from an interest in the land however, any diversion and use of geothermal fluids requires the acquisition of a water right. See Utah Code 73-22-8. Under the Utah Geothermal Resource Conservation Act (UGRCA), Utah defines geothermal resources as:

"the natural heat energy of the earth at temperatures greater than 120 degrees centigrade; and the energy, in whatever form, including pressure, present in, resulting from, created by, or which may be extracted from that natural heat, directly or through a material medium. Geothermal resource does not include geothermal fluids." UC 73-22-3(5).

Under the UGRCA, geothermal fluids are defined as, “water and steam at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius naturally present in a geothermal system.’’ UC 73-22-3(4).
Yes- Permit required from the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Utah Division of Water Rights to appropriate any waters within the state.
VermontX
VirginiaX
WashingtonX
Washington State Department of Ecology
Prior Appropriation
Sui generis: “being neither a mineral resource nor a water resource and as such are declared to be the private property of the holder of the title to the surface land above the resource, unless the geothermal resources have been otherwise reserved by or conveyed to another person or entity.” RCW 78.60.040.
Pursuant to RCW 78.60.060, developers that remove and reinject water in a “closed loop” system in order to obtain geothermal resources are not subject to the appropriation rules and procedures outlined in RCW 90.44 Regulation of public groundwaters. In addition, water reasonably lost during the testing of a geothermal well or the temporary failure of a “closed loop” system is exempted from RCW 90.44.
West VirginiaX
WisconsinX
WyomingX