RAPID/Geothermal/Environment/New Mexico

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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Geothermal Environment in New Mexico

Regulatory Information Overviews

Search for other summaries about Geothermal regulations and permitting.


At a Glance

Jurisdiction: New Mexico

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


State Environment Process

Cultural Resource Assessment

New Mexico’s Cultural Properties Act provides for the identification, preservation, protection and enhancement of structures, sites and objects of historical significance within the state. Developers should consult with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division (NMHPD) to determine if a cultural survey is necessary. If developers discover cultural resources on-site during the project, then they will be required to comply with specific requirements. If human remains are discovered on the site, the necessary requirements are more stringent.

Developers are required to undergo consultation with the NMHPD prior to engaging in any ground-disturbing activity on state lands in New Mexico. NMHPD will then determine if a cultural survey will be needed. If necessary, the developer hires a qualified archaeologist to apply for a General Permit for Archaeological Investigations. NMAC The archaeologist, upon approval, will conduct the archaeological investigation. NMAC 4.10.15. If cultural resources are discovered, then the archaeologist must meet certain obligations before a developer may continue with the project. Where cultural resources are discovered and it is determined that the project will result in an effect on those resources, the developer will be required to comply with a treatment/mitigation plan. NMAC

Developers must comply with strict notice and action requirements if unmarked human burials or burial grounds are discovered on New Mexico state lands at any time during the project. NMAC 4.10.11. Developers are required to provide notice to local law enforcement upon discovery, and a Medical Investigator will determine if the burial has medicolegal significance. Absent medicolegal significance, the developer must employ a qualifying archaeologist who then applies for a Permit to Excavate Human Burials. The archaeologist determines during the application process whether the burials are Native American or non-Native American and comply with differing notice requirements based on that determination. NMAC 4.10.11. The archaeologist then develops a Disposition Plan and submits the plan to NMHPD for approval. NMHPD may comment or modify the plan. Upon approval, the archaeologist is responsible for carrying out the approved Disposition Plan.

If developers discover cultural resources on-site during the project, then they must comply with the cultural resource discovery process in New Mexico. NMAC When the cultural resource is discovered, all ground-disturbing activity must immediately cease in the vicinity of the discovery. Developers will then be required to develop and implement a mitigation plan, which will be reviewed by NMHPD. NMAC

Biological Resource Assessment

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) preserves endangered or threatened wildlife in the state against any direct take under NMSA 17-2-41. Endangered and threatened species are listed in NMAC 19.33.6. Incidental takings are not within the scope of the statute. New Mexico law only requires consultation with the NMDGF for projects on State Game Commission land. However, developers are encouraged to voluntarily consult with NMDGF for all projects that may impact wildlife and ecosystems in New Mexico. NMDGF may conduct biological reviews for developers and provide comments or recommendations. After consultation, a developer is not bound to following any recommendations made by NMDGF.

Water Quality

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 ground water discharge.

Developers must comply with New Mexico’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Management (NPS) Program if their project will impact priority watersheds or impaired waters. The NPS program helps New Mexico meet water quality standards and achieve the goals of the Clean Water Act. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is the lead agency for developing, implementing, and coordinating the NPS Management Program. NMED’s State Water Quality Bureau establishes total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for priority watersheds and impaired waters. TMDLs establish separate maximum acceptable loads for nonpoint sources of pollution. Developers are required to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the project; which may be structural or non-structural.

Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. New Mexico has been grated authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. New Mexico’s role in the NPDES process is to ensure that NPDES-permitted projects comply with state water quality standards outlined in NMAC 20.6.4 through NMED. The EPA will develop a draft NPDES permit for the project then give it to NMED for review to ensure compliance with state water quality standards. If NMED approves the permit, then a Final Certification will be issued to the developer. NMAC

New Mexico does not have authority to issue construction storm water permits under NPDES. However, the Surface Water Quality Bureau, within NMED, assists the EPA in the regulation of storm water discharges by performing inspections on behalf of the EPA and serving as the local point of contact for providing information to operators and other agencies regarding the federal regulatory program.

Developers must obtain an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permit from NMED if their project will required the establishment of an injection well. The UIC Permit process in New Mexico is implemented by NMED’s Ground Water Quality Bureau (GWQB) and the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Oil Conservation Division (OCD) under NMAC and NMAC OCD is the lead agency in regulating geothermal injection wells. Geothermal Wells are classified as Class V wells for UIC purposes. Developers must apply for a UIC Permit with OCD on forms provided by OCD’s Environment Division. Developers will be required to provide public notice of the application and proof of such notice. If the application is approved, then OCD will include permit provisions for operation, maintenance, and reporting. NMAC

Developers requiring a Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers are required to obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the state of New Mexico. NMED may issue or deny 401 Water Quality Certifications for dredge and fill activities. NMS 74-6-4. NMED must ensure that the project will comply with state water quality standards, including the antidegradation policy, and applicable statewide water quality management plans. Developers must apply for 401 Water Quality Certification with NMED on forms provided by the Department. NMED may determine that a public hearing is required for the application. NMAC

Developers must obtain a Ground Water Discharge Permit from NMED if their project may cause or allow discharges into ground water. Developers will be required to comply with the restrictions contained in NMAC 20.6.2. Certain discharges are exempt from Ground Water Discharge Permit requirements, such discharges are listed in NMAC Developers must create a Discharge Plan and submit it to NMED for review. The Discharge Plan will set forth in detail the methods or techniques the developer intends to use or processes expected to naturally occur that will ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. NMAC Following issuance of the permit, developers are required to comply with all terms and conditions contained within it.

Air Quality

In New Mexico, developers may be required to obtain multiple air quality permits for their project. One project may necessitate both an Air Quality Construction Permit and an Air Quality Construction permit from NMED.

Developers must obtain an Air Quality Construction Permit from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) before beginning construction if their project will result in a specified level of air pollutants. NMAC For example, a permit is required if the developer is constructing a stationary source which has a potential emission rate greater than 10 pounds per hour or 25 tons per year of any regulated air contaminant for which there is a National or New Mexico Ambient Air Quality Standard. NMAC Developers may be able to exclude certain sources which are outside of those activities requiring an Air Quality Permit pursuant to NMAC Developers must apply for an Air Quality Construction permit with NMED, which requires extensive information on the air contaminants the source will emit and compliance with public notice and hearing requirements. Developers may be required by NMED to conduct operational testing following issuance of the permit. NMAC

Developers may request accelerated review of their Air Quality Construction Permit Application by an outside firm. NMAC NMED will allow accelerated review of an application only if there is at least one qualified outside firm under contract with NMED. If there are multiple outside firms available, then NMED will accept bids from the firms and determine which should complete the review. NMAC The outside firm’s analysis of the application is not binding on NMED. NMED has full authority to accept or reject the outside firm’s determination regarding the application. NMAC

Developers may be required to obtain a Title V Air Quality Operating permit from NMED if their sources have the potential to emit certain levels of air pollutants. For example, a Title V permit is required under NMAC 20.2.70 for sources that have a potential to emit more than 100 tons per year for criteria pollutants and for landfills greater than 2.5 million cubic meters. Certain activities are deemed so trivial that they need not be included in the permit application. Developers must apply for an Air Quality Operating Permit with NMED, which requires extensive information on the emissions, applicable air pollution control requirements, and any other information that may be necessary for successful review. Developers may be required to participate in a public hearing. NMAC If the application is approved by NMED, then NMED issues an operating permit for a fixed term of five years. NMAC

Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process

If the developer’s project requires installation of an underground storage tank, then the developer will be required to obtain approval from NMED prior to construction. Developers may also be required to obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit if their project involves hazardous wastes as defined in the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.

In New Mexico, NMED’s Petroleum Storage Tank Bureau oversees the installation, modification, and removal of underground storage tanks (UST) pursuant to the authority granted in the Hazardous Waste Act and the Environmental Improvement General Provisions. Specific UST systems are exempt from NMAC 20.5 regulation. NMAC 20.5.1. Developers must give NMED written notice of installation 30 days prior to commencing any installation activities. NMAC Developers must submit all the necessary forms to NMED along with an annual fee. It is illegal to operate a UTS system in New Mexico without a current and valid registration certificate. NMAC

Developers may be required to obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from NMED if their project will involve “hazardous wastes” as defined in the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act (NMHWA). “Hazardous waste” is defined by the NMHWA as any solid waste or combination of solid wastes that because of their quantity, concentration or physical, chemical or infections characteristics may: cause or significantly contribute to any increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness; or pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of or otherwise managed. NMSA 74-4-3(K). Drilling fluids, produced waters and other wastes associated with the exploration, development or production of geothermal energy are specifically excluded from the definition of “hazardous wastes” in NMHWA. NMSA 74-4-3(K). Developers must be issued an EPA Identification Number by NMED prior to submitting an application. Developers may be required to participate in a public hearing, and NMED will respond to any comments made during the hearing. NMAC

Local Environment Process

not available

Policies & Regulations


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