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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Geothermal Environment in Colorado

Regulatory Information Overviews

Search for other summaries about Geothermal regulations and permitting.


At a Glance

Jurisdiction: Colorado

Environmental Review Process: None

Environmental Review Agency:

Type of State Environmental Review (Leasing Stage): None

Type of State Environmental Review (Non-invasive Exploration): None

Type of State Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration): None

Type of State Environmental Review (Drilling): None

Type of State Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting): None

Contacts/Agencies: Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

State Environment Process

Colorado does not have a state environmental review process, however geothermal developers in Colorado must comply with a number of individual procedures related to cultural and biological resources, water quality, air quality, and hazardous and solid waste.

State Cultural Considerations

Developers that discover human remains within the project area must follow Colorado’s process for protecting cultural resources set forth by statute under the Historical, Prehistorical, and Archaeological Resources Act of 1973 and by regulation under 8 CCR 1504-7. Upon discovery of human remains, the county coroner will complete an on-site inquiry and determine whether to contact the Office of the State Archaeologist. If the remains are Native American, the State Archaeologist will notify the Commission of Indian Affairs. The agencies will make a joint determination whether to leave the remains in place or to permit them to be excavated. If the agencies permit excavation, the developer must obtain an excavation permit.

State Biological Considerations

Developers that propose geothermal development projects in Colorado’s State Wildlife Areas must negotiate a Commercial Use Contract with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Commercial use restrictions are set forth by statute under C.R.S. 33-15-114.

Water Resource Assessment

Geothermal developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, NPDES permitting, underground injection control, 401 water quality certification, and groundwater discharge.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) administers a voluntary regulatory Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program to control the impacts of nonpoint source pollution. The MDEQ program consists of public awareness, cooperation with other agencies and land owners, and the application of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Developers may choose to comply with the program.

Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. Colorado has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) issues NPDES permits in accordance with the Colorado Water Quality Control Act and implementing regulations: 5 CCR 1002-61 and 5 CCR 1002-61. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.

The EPA has not delegated authority to Colorado to regulate Class V underground injection control wells. Developers seeking underground injection control wells for geothermal activities must receive authority from the EPA.

Developers must obtain a 401 Water Quality Certification from the CDPHE WQCD if their project implicates any federal license or permit issued to construct or operate a facility which may result in any fill or discharge into navigable waters of the United States. The CDPHE WQCD has developed administrative rules for water quality certification under 5 CCR 1002-82 401 Certification Regulation.

If the project will impact groundwater, the developer must obtain a groundwater discharge permit unless the discharge is excluded by 5 CCR 1002-61.14(1). The CDPHE WQCD protects groundwater quality through issuing groundwater discharge permits under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act and 5 CCR 1002-61 for activities that impact groundwater quality such as surface disposal, septic systems, unlined ponds, overland flow, reuse and irrigation.

Air Quality

All new stationary sources of air emissions must obtain a Construction Air Permit as required by CRS 25-7-100 et seq, unless specifically exempted by regulation under 5 CCR 1001 to 1005. The Air Pollution Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (APCD) oversees the process for construction air permits. For non-exempt sources of air emissions, developers must file an Air Pollution Emission Notice with APCD to notify the agency of the sources location, ownership, nature, and quantity of emissions. Developers must also submit an Application for a Construction Permits to the APCD for approval. The approval process is lengthy and detailed, and might be subject to public comment. Upon approval, the developer must commence construction within eighteen months, and must comply with the terms and conditions of the permit through completion of construction.

Hazardous Waste and Materials

For projects that require the installation of an underground storage tank, developers are required to obtain approval from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). Developers may also be required to obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from the Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE)

In Colorado, underground storage tank (UST) design, installation, registration, construction, and operation, for tanks storing petroleum or other substances not considered hazardous waste are governed by both federal statute under 42 U.S.C. 6901 and by Colorado regulation under 7 C.C.R. 1101-14. If a UST system is not exempted by regulation, developers must obtain a permit from the CDLE to construct, use, or modify the system. Prior to completion, the UST system must pass inspection by CDLE. Each system must be registered and have an annual certificate of registration.

Owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities must obtain TSD permits as required by both 6 CCR 1007-3 and Title 40 CFR 270: EPA Administered Programs: The Hazardous Waste Program. The State of Colorado regulates permitting of TSD facilities through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. For disposal facilities, owners and operators must obtain a Certificate of Designation for Land Disposal from the local Board of County Commissioners. For treatment facilities, which are facilities that treat generated hazardous wastes onsite and then ship the waste off site, owners and operators must obtain a Generator Treatment Permit. TSD facility owners and operators must also obtain approval of RCRA Hazardous Waste Permits Part A (for site identification) and Part B (for narrative description). RCRA permits are subject to approval by Colorado’s DPHE. Owners and operators of TSD facilities must pay annual operation fees.

Local Environment Process

not available

Policies & Regulations


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