Geothermal Resources Leasing in Churchill, Mineral & Nye Counties
EA-NV-030-08-001 (May 2008)
The Bureau of Land Management ("BLM"), Carson City Field Office ("CCFO"), has prepared this environmental assessment to analyze impacts to the human and natural environment resulting from leasing of geothermal resources in Churchill and Mineral Counties, Nevada. Geothermal resources on public lands are subject to lease under the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, as amended, 30 U.S.C. 1001-1028; The Energy Policy of 2005, (Pub. L. 109-58) (Energy Policy Act); 43 CFR 3200, Geothermal Resource Leasing. These provide the authority for the BLM to allow for the exploration, development, and utilization of geothermal resources on BLM-managed public lands, as well as, geothermal resources on lands managed by other surface management agencies, such as the United States Forest Service.
Geothermal resources means all products of geothermal processes, including indigenous steam, hot water, and hot brines; steam and other gases, hot water, and hot brines resulting from water, gas, or other fluids artificially introduced into geothermal formations; heat or other associated energy found in geothermal formations; and any byproducts.
After a lease has been granted, it is reasonably foreseeable that the operator may propose subsequent exploration and development activities for BLM approval. These would require BLM authorization and, if necessary, environmental review. For exploration other than casual use activities, the operator must file an exploration permit that identifies, among many things, the areas to be explored and the method of exploration. When the operator has filed this permit with the local BLM office, the proposed action in the exploration permit undergoes NEPA review to determine if there are any environmental conflicts in the area to be disturbed. If so, the BLM may, at its discretion, approve or disapprove the permit or modify it by requiring additional mitigating measures. Should the operator not be willing to accept the decision, the permit can be modified and resubmitted, or the decision can be appealed.
The development phase occurs when the operator has located a potentially economic reservoir. The operator must file an operations plan to describe how an operator will drill for and test the geothermal resources covered by the lease. The action proposed in the operations plan would undergo NEPA review by the local BLM office to evaluate the possible environmental impacts of the action. If environmental conflicts are likely to occur, the BLM may again approve, modify, or disapprove the plan.
Barring abandonment of exploration and development wells, the final phase of this process is the creation of, for example, a production well. After the appropriate paperwork is filed with the local BLM office, the proposed action again undergoes the approval process. Should this drilling operation result in producing wells, continued monitoring would be required to check for any hydrocarbon spills resulting from leaking pipelines, overfilled tank batteries, or tanker truck spills. This area would need continued monitoring to ensure safety for people, livestock and wildlife.
Geothermal exploration and production upon BLM managed land are conducted through leases with the BLM and are subject to terms and stipulations to comply with all applicable federal and state laws pertaining to various considerations for sanitation, water quality, wildlife, safety, and reclamation. Stipulations are be site specific and are derived from the current management plan for that specific area. The 2001 Carson City Field Office Consolidated Resource Management Plan currently does not identify lease stipulations.