Geothermal Steam Act Law and Legal Definition

Geothermal Steam Act is a U.S. federal law that governs the leasing of geothermal steam and related resources on public lands. The Act bans issuance of geothermal leases on almost all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administered lands. This Act was enacted in 1970. The provisions of the Act are found under 30 USCS §§ 1001 through 1027.

Pursuant to the Act, the Secretary is authorized to issue leases for development and utilization of geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources in:

1. Lands administered by the Secretary. This includes public, withdrawn and acquired lands.

2. National forests or other lands administered by the Forest Service.

3. Lands conveyed by the U.S. subject to a reservation to the U.S. of geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources.

30 USCS § 1003 details the leasing procedure. This section reads as below:

Leasing procedures

(a) Nominations. The Secretary shall accept nominations of land to be leased at any time from qualified companies and individuals under this Act.

(b) Competitive lease sale required.

(1) In general. Except as otherwise specifically provided by this Act, all land to be leased that is not subject to leasing under subsection (c) shall be leased as provided in this subsection to the highest responsible qualified bidder, as determined by the Secretary.

(2) Competitive lease sales. The Secretary shall hold a competitive lease sale at least once every 2 years for land in a State that has nominations pending under subsection (a) if the land is otherwise available for leasing.

(3) Lands subject to mining claims. Lands that are subject to a mining claim for which a plan of operations has been approved by the relevant Federal land management agency may be available for noncompetitive leasing under this section to the mining claim holder.

(c) Noncompetitive leasing. The Secretary shall make available for a period of 2 years for noncompetitive leasing any tract for which a competitive lease sale is held, but for which the Secretary does not receive any bids in a competitive lease sale.

(d) Pending lease applications.

(1) In general. It shall be a priority for the Secretary, and for the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to National Forest Systems land, to ensure timely completion of administrative actions, including amendments to applicable forest plans and resource management plans, necessary to process applications for geothermal leasing pending on the date of enactment of this subsection [enacted Aug. 8, 2005]. All future forest plans and resource management plans for areas with high geothermal resource potential shall consider geothermal leasing and development.

(2) Administration. An application described in paragraph (1) and any lease issued pursuant to the application--

(A) except as provided in subparagraph (B), shall be subject to this section as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this paragraph [enacted Aug. 8, 2005]; or

(B) at the election of the applicant, shall be subject to this section as in effect on the effective date of this paragraph [effective Aug. 8, 2005].

(e) Leases sold as a block. If information is available to the Secretary indicating a geothermal resource that could be produced as 1 unit can reasonably be expected to underlie more than 1 parcel to be offered in a competitive lease sale, the parcels for such a resource may be offered for bidding as a block in the competitive lease sale.

(f) Leasing for direct use of geothermal resources. Notwithstanding subsection (b), the Secretary may identify areas in which the land to be leased under this Act exclusively for direct use of geothermal resources, without sale for purposes other than commercial generation of electricity, may be leased to any qualified applicant that first applies for such a lease under regulations issued by the Secretary, if the Secretary--

(1) publishes a notice of the land proposed for leasing not later than 90 days before the date of the issuance of the lease;

(2) does not receive during the 90-day period beginning on the date of the publication any nomination to include the land concerned in the next competitive lease sale; and

(3) determines there is no competitive interest in the geothermal resources in the land to be leased.

(g) Area subject to lease for direct use.

(1) In general. Subject to paragraph (2), a geothermal lease for the direct use of geothermal resources shall cover not more than the quantity of acreage determined by the Secretary to be reasonably necessary for the proposed use.

(2) Limitations. The quantity of acreage covered by the lease shall not exceed the limitations established under section 7.