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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Federal Drilling Application Process (5-FD-a)

Prior to submittal of geothermal permits, the BLM specialists will meet with the developer, and United States Forest Service specialists if the surface is managed by the FS, to discuss the likely level of NEPA review relevant environmental issues, and identify information needed for environmental analysis for projects.

Two weeks prior to the scheduled pre-planning meetings, offices will require proponents to submit the following information:

  • Topographic maps at the appropriate scale outlining the lease area and proposed project area (if different);
  • A topographic map at 1:24,000 scale for Native American Consultation Letters;
  • Shape files and metadata associated with map data;
  • A general description of the types of activities being proposed; and
  • The proposed timeline for these projects (particularly for Department of Energy funded projects with deadlines).

The BLM Project Lead will review and coordinate with the Field Office (FO)/District Office (DO) geothermal team, and if the site is on NFS lands, with the appropriate FS office staff, to further review and bring forth resource conflicts and constraints prior to the meeting and determine what archeological inventories and environmental surveys are required for the proposed project. The developer, consultant, contractors, and BLM should attend the Pre Planning Meeting and other Federal, state and local agencies are encouraged to attend.

(See Instruction Memorandum No. NV-2010-066)

Drilling Application Process Process

5-FD-a.1 to 5-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.

Drilling Pre-Application Process NV only:

5-FD-a.3 - Geothermal Lease, Operations Plan (OP), Drilling Program

A Surface Use Plan describes access to the well location(s), size of the drilling pad(s), environmental mitigation measures, etc. The operator has two options for submitting the Surface Use Plan.

The operator may submit the Surface Use Plan:

  1. as part of the GDP application (see below)(36 CFR 228.106(a)).
  2. by itself, prior to their GDP application, by using a Sundry Notice ( NEPA analysis and approval required before starting surface operations (see 43 CFR 3261 - Drilling Operations: Getting a Permit)). This will allow the operator to begin the NEPA approval process earlier and begin surface preparations while the rest of the GDP application is being prepared.

A Geothermal Drilling Permit (GDP) Geothermal Drilling Permit (Form 3260-002) is necessary when a geothermal developer submits an application that involves drilling into, testing or developing production, observation, and injection wells. The GDP application requires a drilling plan that describes how drilling and testing will be conducted, including expected lithology, temperatures, pressures, mud and pressure control program, etc. A GDP is required for each individual well, however multiple GDPs can be submitted as a master development plan and approved under one NEPA document.

5-FD-a.4 to 5-FD-a.6 - Review Application Materials for Completeness

BLM will review the application and notify applicant whether or not it is complete. If another Federal agency manages the surface of the lease, they will be consulted before any permit is approved.

The drilling permit will be reviewed to ensure compliance with the requirements of 43 CFR 3200.4. BLM will review the drilling permit and program or the Sundry Notice for well pad construction to ensure that they conform with the operations plan and any mitigation measures developed during the review process. The drilling permit and program will be reviewed for technical adequacy and the developer may be required to provide additional information. If further information is required to complete the review, BLM will contact the developer in writing and suspend the review until the necessary information is received. 43 CFR 3261.20.

After the review is complete, BLM will notify the developer as to whether the permit has been approved or denied, and any conditions necessary for approval. 43 CFR 3261.20.

5-FD-a.7 - Review Application Materials

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

5-FD-a.8 - Application Coordination Meeting

The information provided during this meeting should provide the basis for initiating the Native American consultation process, archeological clearances, and necessary environmental surveys, so the GDPs, when they are submitted, may be processed within the provided time frame guidelines.

(Instruction Memorandum No. NV-2008-022)

5-FD-a.9 - Begin NEPA Process

Before the Surface Use Plan and Geothermal Drilling Permit can be approved, the NEPA process will need to be completed successfully and a decision issued. Many stages of geothermal development require the NEPA process - often the NEPA process is conducted for all stages of construction concurrently to save time.

Bureau of Land Management-NEPA Process:

5-FD-a.10 - Bonding Document or Letter of Credit

A bond must be posted prior to a lessee or operator beginning exploration, drilling, or utilization operations. The bond must cover all record title owners, operating rights owners, operators, and any other person who conducts operations on the lease.

The Bond must cover:

(a) Any activities related to exploration, drilling, utilization, or associated operations on a Federal lease;
(b) Reclamation of the surface and other resources;
(c) Rental and royalty payments; and
(d) Compliance with the requirements of 43 CFR § 3200.4

The minimum dollar amount varies by the type of activity and whether it covers individual leases activities, state wide activities, or nationwide activities:

(a) Exploration operations: see 43 CFR § 3251.14 and 43 CFR § 3251.15;
(b) Drilling operations: see 43 CFR § 3261.18; and
(c) Utilization operations: see 43 CFR § 3271.12 and 43 CFR § 3273.19.

5-FD-a.11 - Approved Geothermal Drilling Permit (GDP)

Whether the geothermal drilling permit (GDP) application, drilling program, and operations plan are submitted at the same time or the operations plan is submitted on a Sundry Notice, the NEPA analysis must be completed prior to approval of the associated GDP(s).

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