In an effort to encourage appropriate geothermal energy development on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have prepared a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for geothermal leasing in the West, including Alaska. The draft PEIS considers all public lands and national forests with geothermal resources to be available for leasing, with the exception of those lands that are withdrawn or administratively closed to geothermal leasing. That option includes 117 million acres of public lands and 75 million acres of national forests, while an alternative option would limit geothermal leasing for power plants to areas near transmission lines. By 2015, the lands could potentially host 110 new geothermal plants producing 5,500 megawatts of power, and by 2025, an additional 132 geothermal plants could produce another 6,600 megawatts of power. In addition, 270 communities could potentially draw on geothermal resources as a heating source.
The draft PEIS was opened for public comment on June 13, and it will remain open until 90 days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publishes its notice in the Federal Register, an event expected to occur on June 20. The BLM will also hold public meetings in 13 cities throughout the region in July. Approval of the PEIS will allow the BLM to modify its land use plans and to issue decisions on geothermal lease applications that are now pending. It will also help the Forest Service decide when to approve leases in national forests, although the Forest Service will require a separate environmental review process to amend its land use plans. See the BLM press release and the BLM's Geothermal PEIS website.