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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Federal Exploration Application Process BLM (4-FD-a)

Before any (non-casual use) exploration operations are conducted, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must approve a Notice of Intent to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations (Form 3200-009) (NOI). The approved NOI, including conditions for approval, is tantamount to a permit to explore.

BLM may approve exploration in BLM-managed lands open to geothermal leasing. BLM may also approve exploration on lands managed by another Federal agency when BLM has leased the subsurface geothermal resources. BLM will consult with the surface management agency on recommendations and site specific stipulations prior to approval of the NOI.

The approved NOI does not grant exclusive rights to the applicant and may be granted for lands currently leased by another party. If a developer is exploring lands already leased by another party, the exploration activities may not unreasonably interfere with or endanger the other operations. Exploration activities must not cause unnecessary or undue degradation of BLM lands.

Exploration Application Process BLM Process

4-FD-a.1 to 4-FD-a.2 - Is the Project in Nevada and do you plan to do the Pre-Application Process

If the proposed project is in Nevada, then the developer has the option to use the state pre-application process. This process is designed to streamline the application process and reduce delays.

Exploration Pre-Application Process (NV only):

4-FD-a.3 - Notice of Intent (NOI) to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations (Form 3200-009)

To obtain approval of exploration operations on BLM-managed lands, your application must:

  1. Include a complete and signed Notice of Intent to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations (Form 3200-009) (NOI) to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration Operations - describing the lands you wish to explore;
  2. For operations other than drilling temperature gradient wells, describe your exploration plans and procedures, including the approximate starting and ending dates for each phase of operations;
  3. For drilling temperature gradient wells, describe your drilling and completion procedures, and include, for each well or for several wells you propose to drill in an area of geologic and environmental similarity:
    1. A detailed description of the equipment, materials, and procedures you will use;
    2. The depth of each well;
    3. The casing and cementing program;
    4. The circulation media (mud, air, foam, etc.);
    5. A description of the logs that you will run;
    6. A description and diagram of the blowout prevention equipment you will use during each phase of drilling;
    7. The expected depth and thickness of fresh water zones;
    8. Anticipated lost circulation zones;
    9. Anticipated temperature gradient in the area;
    10. Well site layout and design;
    11. Existing and planned access roads or ancillary facilities; and
    12. Your source of drill pad and road building material and water supply.
  4. Show evidence of bond coverage (see §3251.15);
  5. Estimate how much surface disturbance your exploration may cause;
  6. Describe the proposed measures you will take to protect the environment and other resources;
  7. Describe methods to reclaim the surface; and
  8. Include all other information BLM may require.

4-FD-a.4 to 4-FD-a.6 - Review Application Materials for Completeness

The Bureau of Land Management will review the NOI to make sure it is complete and signed (43 CFR 3251.12). It will also be reviewed for compliance with any applicable operational orders, notices to lessees, lease terms and stipulations, approved plans and permits, conditions of approval, verbal orders from BLM that will be confirmed in writing and any other applicable laws and regulations.

If the BLM has leased the subsurface from another federal agency, then the BLM must consult with the federal surface management agency before approving any NOI.

If BLM requires additional information, BLM will suspend processing the NOI until the additional information is received.

After review, BLM will notify the applicant whether or not additional information is required. Otherwise, BLM will notify the applicant that the NOI is either denied or approved. At the time of approval, the applicant will be notified of any conditions of approval.

Requirements of any party taking any action or conducting any operation under this section: 43 CFR 3200.4

4-FD-a.7 - Are the Lands Open to Geothermal Development

BLM consults the Land Use Management Plan and with the local field office to determine if lands are available for geothermal exploration and development. It should be noted, however that federal lands may be available for leasing even though the surface may not be occupied. Federally managed lands may not be open to geothermal development for a number of reasons, including:

  1. A land use plan is being revised and use authorizations may be deferred pending the record of decision.
  2. Activity is not compatible with existing land use plan.
  3. Lands are closed to leasing.
  4. Lands are not under federal management.

If the lands are closed for surface occupancy and/or leasing, BLM will notify the applicant why lands are not available for geothermal leasing and development.

4-FD-a.8 - Is there an Active Geothermal Lease

If there is no geothermal lease, forward pre-application material to appropriate surface management agency for their review and determination of whether the lands are available for exploration.

BLM will conduct pre-application review if there is an active geothermal lease.

4-FD-a.9 - Review Application Material

After BLM has determined that the application is complete, the Surface Management Agency (e.g. USFS) will review the application materials and make recommendations for resource and environmental protection and mitigation.

4-FD-a.10 - Application Coordination Meeting

The application coordination meeting is required to discuss the proposed exploration activity and identify specific information or environmental surveys that will be required.

After the pre-application meeting an on-site evaluation is required to evaluate site specific conditions and identify additional surveys and conditions of approval for the developer to compete a Notice of Intent (NOI) application. For a description of specific environmental issues arising in geothermal projects, see the Geothermal Energy Association's Guide to Geothermal Energy and the Environment.

On-Site Evaluation Process: 10

4-FD-a.11 - Begin NEPA Process

The BLM is required to complete the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act before issuing an approved NOI.

Bureau of Land Management- NEPA Process:

4-FD-a.12 - Bonding Document or Letter of Credit

The developer must obtain a bond approved by the BLM before starting any exploration operations. The developer may meet the requirement for an exploration bond in two ways:

  • If the developer has an existing nationwide or statewide oil and gas exploration bond, they must provide a rider in an amount specified by the BLM to include geothermal resources exploration operations; or
  • If the developer must file a new bond for geothermal exploration in an amount specified by the BLM.

4-FD-a.13 - Approved NOI to Conduct Geothermal Resource Exploration

After the BLM has approved the NOI, the developer may begin exploration.

4-FD-d.14 – Initiate BLM Exploration Operations

For information on geothermal exploration compliance requirements under 43 CFR 3252 and completion report and data submittal requirements under 43 CFR 3253, the developer should consult 4-FD-d – BLM Exploration Operations.

BLM Exploration Operations:

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