The House Natural Resources Committee today approved legislation from Idaho 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador to ease regulation on development of new geothermal energy resources. The bill, H.R. 4568, passed on a bipartisan voice vote; an earlier version of the bill passed the House in 2012.
“Idaho has an abundant supply of clean energy stored below ground, but the resource hasn’t reached its potential because of excessive regulation,” Labrador said. “My bill will clear the way for additional exploration without sacrificing environmental protections.”
The legislation would reduce regulatory approval times for small exploratory wells from about 10 months to two months or less, and test holes 9 inches or less in diameter would be granted a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act. Labrador said similar provisions already exist for the oil, gas and mining industries. Also included are provisions permitting co-production of geothermal on lands leased for oil and gas; and requiring the government to identify priority areas for geothermal development.
The bill, which is supported by Idaho geothermal developers, also includes a clause easing leasing rules that’s drawn from a bill introduced in November by Idaho 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson.
Labrador’s office said 90 percent of the United States’ viable geothermal resources are on federal lands.