RAPID/Geothermal/Land Use/Federal

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Geothermal Land Use in Federal

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Federal Land Use Process

Geothermal projects on federal land must be consistent with the applicable Land Use Plan (LUP). Most projects on federal land will be subject to the administration of either the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the United States Forest Service (USFS). LUPs are also known as Resource Management Plans (RMPs) or Land Management Plans (LMPs). If the desired type of project is not consistent with the applicable LUP, developers will need to either revise or amend the LUP.


On BLM managed land, regulations governing RMP development and revision can be found in 14 CFR 1610 et seq.. Generally, new geothermal projects sited on BLM managed land require an amendment, not a revision. Revisions have more procedural requirements, including preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 43 CFR 1610.2. Amendments may not require an EIS where a Categorical Exclusion (CE) applies or an Environmental Assessment (EA) and subsequent Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) suffice. If an EIS is required, the amendment process is identical to the revision process. In 2008, the BLM and USFS, in cooperation with the United States Department of Energy, issued a ROD and RMP amendments for geothermal leasing in the western United States. The ROD amended 114 BLM and land use plans in the 11 western states and Alaska for geothermal leasing using a Programmatic Geothermal Environmental Impact Statement (PGEIS). Geothermal projects sited within the RMP areas affected by the PGEIS will not require a revision or an amendment. Geothermal projects sited outside of the RMP areas affected by the PGEIS may require an amendment.


On USFS managed land, the National Forest Management Act of 1976 USFS to develop, revise and amend LMPs for units of the National Forest System (NFS). See 16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq. 16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.. 36 CFR 219.15(d) requires all projects and activities approved on USFS-managed land to be consistent with the applicable LMP. If a geothermal project is not consistent with the applicable LMP, a revision may be required. A revision replaces the current LMP for the applicable land unit, while an amendment adds, modifies or removes one or more plan components. As a practical matter, most geothermal projects on USFS managed land will require an amendment, not a revision.

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