March 19, 2015

Wyden, Merkley Introduce Bill to Spur Geothermal Energy

Washington, D.C. – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today introduced legislation to encourage geothermal energy production on public lands.

The Geothermal Production Expansion Act prevents speculative bidders from driving up the price of leases for developers seeking to use the land for geothermal projects. The bill streamlines the federal geothermal leasing program by allowing for the non-competitive leasing of a limited amount of federal land at fair market value to spur the expansion of geothermal energy on already identified “hot spots.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages geothermal projects on federal land under lease agreements, estimates about 250 million acres of federal land contains geothermal power potential. Geothermal energy projects that are producing geothermal power under the BLM’s management make up about half of the total geothermal generating capacity in the United States.

“Geysers, volcanoes and hot springs – like Oregon’s own Neal Hot Springs – are reservoirs of the Earth’s enormous clean energy potential,” Wyden said. “By making these “hot spots” available to only serious developers, this bill protects taxpayer dollars and prevents speculators from holding hostage the enormous possibilities of geothermal energy.”

“Oregon has vast potential to be an energy innovation leader and to use our remarkable natural resources to produce even more renewable energy,” Merkley said. “Let’s lay the path for that clean energy future by putting in place smart policies that will encourage serious development of geothermal energy.”

Oregon has the potential to produce at least 1,100 MW from geothermal resources – enough energy to power about a million homes. U.S. Geothermal operates a geothermal power project in Oregon’s Neal Hot Springs, near Vale.

“We thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for their continued strong support of the geothermal industry with their introduction of the Geothermal Production Expansion Act,” said Doug Glaspey, President and C.O.O. of U.S. Geothermal, Inc. “This is an important piece that improves the federal leasing system and will help geothermal developers move projects toward production.”

The bill passed the Senate last year. Senators Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also cosponsored the legislation.