Texas Geothermal Land & Geothermal Resource Access(3-TX)
In order to develop geothermal resources in Texas, developers must obtain a lease and, any required rights-of-way (ROW) easements to access state lands, including any necessary permits to encroach on existing state ROWs.
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) manages the leasing of state lands in Texas through Title 31 of the Texas Administrative Code 31 TAC Chapter 155. The leasing process is generally similar, but the procedures vary depending on what type of state land the developer seeks to lease. The GLO has authority to administer leases on the following types of state land:
- Permanent School Fund (PSF) Land;
- Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Land;
- Land Trade (LT) Lands; and
- Relinquishment Act (RA) Lands.
Except for RA lands, leasing is conducted by nomination at one of four lease sales held per year and issued to the highest sealed bidder. However, where the mineral estate is severed from the surface estate, developers may submit an application to lease and are relieved from competing in the sealed-bid process. The GLO will only issue a lease if it is determined to be in the best interest of the state and after issuance, the GLO must report on the status of the geothermal project to the Texas legislature. 31 TAC 155.42(b)(7)
For lease nominations or applications on TPWD lands, the GLO must provide notification to the TWPD of an application/nomination and additional notice subsequent to the issuance of a lease. Apart from the additional notice, the process for leasing PSF land and TPWD land is identical.
For lease nominations or applications on LT lands, the GLO must provide notification to the surface owner subsequent to issuing a lease. LT lands are defined as “Lands, the surface of which has been sold or traded with both mineral rights and leasing rights retained by the state.” 31 TAC 155.40(a)(3). Apart from the additional notice, the process for leasing PSF lands and LT lands is identical.
Relinquishment Act Lands
For RA lands, there is no potential for a nomination and sealed-bid sale. The developer submits an application to the GLO but the process varies depending on whether the surface owner is unavailable and/or has forfeited rights to the minerals. ‘Relinquishment Act Lands’ are defined as “any public free school or asylum lands, whether surveyed or unsurveyed, sold with a mineral classification or reservation between September 1, 1895 and August 21, 1931.” RA lands also encompass any other lands, including vacancy lands, patented with all minerals reserved to the state and expressly made subject to the leasing terms and procedures governing Relinquishment Act lands. 31 TAC 155.40. If the developer can locate the surface owner and the surface owner has not forfeited rights, the surface owner acts as the state’s leasing agent during lease negotiation. Where the surface owner is unavailable, the developer must abide by the procedures in 31 TAC 155.44(g) and Tex. Nat. Res. Code Sec. 52.186(b). The GLO determines whether to issue a lease on RA lands by using the same criteria for leases on all other types of state land.
Access on or Across State Land or State ROWs
Developers that require limited access on or across state land for any purpose related to a geothermal project will need to obtain an easement or right-of-way lease form the GLO. TNRC 51.291(a). The GLO also issues special permits for access through a coastal zone. For access on most public lands, the developer will need to submit an Application for New Rights of Way / Miscellaneous Easements. For access on coastal zones, the developer will need to submit an Application for State Land Use Lease: Commercial/Multi-Family. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) district offices protect the state’s rights of way (ROWs) and facilitate and coordinate the safe and efficient operation of Texas highways. If a project will encroach on existing state ROWs, the district engineers from each district have authority to approve permits for the construction of utility facilities within a state ROW as well as construction, relocation or modification of a driveway facility (access point) on highway ROWs.
In extremely rare circumstances, the TxDOT leases highway assets. The GLO conducts the leasing process, but geothermal development projects will typically go through the state land leasing process and/or an encroachment permit for utility accommodation on state highway ROWs as opposed to pursuing a highway lease.
Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply
Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.
Permitting at a Glance
|Leasing Agency:||Texas General Land Office||Bureau of Land Management|
|Competitive Land Leasing:||Yes, for all lands except Relinquishment Act Lands.|
|Noncompetitive Land Leasing:||Yes, for Relinquishment Act Lands.|
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