[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 207 (Friday, October 24, 2008)]
[Pages 63430-63433]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-25294]



Bureau of Land Management


Forest Service


Notice of Availability of the Final Programmatic Environmental 
Impact Statement for Leasing of Geothermal Resources in Eleven Western 
United States and Alaska, Including Proposed Amendments to Selected 
Land Use Plans

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior; and U.S. Forest Service, 

ACTION: Notice of Availability (NOA).


SUMMARY: In accordance with section 202 of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Council on 
Environmental Quality's regulations implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1500-
1508), and applicable agency guidance, a Final Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) has been prepared on the leasing 
of geothermal resources in 11 Western United States (U.S.) and Alaska. 
The Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the 
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (FS) are co-lead agencies for 
the PEIS. The Department of Energy (DOE) participated as a core team 
member. The PEIS has been developed, in part, to support the amendment 
of 122 resource management plans (RMP) covering public lands managed by 
the BLM under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 
    In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Pub. L. 109-58, 
August 8, 2005), the goal of the proposed action is to make geothermal 
leasing decisions on pending lease applications submitted prior to 
January 1, 2005, and to facilitate geothermal leasing decisions on 
other existing and future lease applications and nominations on the 
Federal mineral estate. The planning area encompasses about 530 million 
acres of land with the potential for geothermal development in Alaska, 
Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, 
Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

DATES: The proposed RMP amendments and Final PEIS for Leasing of 
Geothermal Resources will be available for review for 30 days following 
the date the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes its Notice 
of Availability in the Federal Register.

at (208) 373-4048 ([email protected]), Bureau of Land 
Management, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, Idaho 83706 or Ivette Torres, 
FS Program Manager at (703) 605-4792 ([email protected]), Forest 
Service, Mail Stop 1126 RPC 5th, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., 
Washington, DC 20250 or visit the PEIS Web site at http://www.blm.gov/Geothermal_EIS.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the proposed RMP amendments and Final PEIS is 
available for review via the Internet from a link at http://www.blm.gov/Geothermal_EIS. Hardcopies are available for review at BLM 
State Offices and Field Offices. Electronic (on CD-ROM) and paper 
copies may also be obtained by contacting Jack Peterson at the address 
and phone number listed in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. The 
proposed RMP amendments and Final

[[Page 63431]]

PEIS consist of three volumes: Volume I contains the proposed RMP 
amendments and associated programmatic analyses; Volume II provides the 
specific environmental analysis for the pending lease applications; and 
Volume III contains the appendices, including responses to public 
comments on the Draft PEIS.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 
2005, the BLM and FS propose to facilitate geothermal leasing of the 
Federal mineral estate on lands administered by the BLM (termed 
``public lands'') and by the FS (National Forest System [NFS] lands) 
that have geothermal potential in the 11 Western States and Alaska. 
Under the proposal, the BLM and FS would do the following: (1) Identify 
public and NFS lands with geothermal potential as being open or closed 
to leasing; (2) on public lands, identify lands that are 
administratively closed or open to leasing and development, and under 
what conditions; (3) develop a comprehensive list of stipulations, best 
management practices (BMPs), and procedures to serve as consistent 
guidance for future geothermal leasing and development on public and 
NFS lands; (4) amend BLM RMPs to adopt the resource allocations, 
stipulations, BMPs, and procedures; and (5) provide FS consent, if 
applicable, to issue or deny geothermal lease applications pending as 
of January 1, 2005, on public and NFS lands.
    The need for the action is to: (1) Issue decisions on pending lease 
applications in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005; (2) 
address other provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, respond to 
other policy directives calling for clean and renewable energy (such as 
state renewable portfolio standards), and meet the increasing energy 
demands of the Nation; and (3) facilitate geothermal leasing decisions 
on other existing and future lease applications and nominations on the 
Federal mineral estate. The purpose of the action is to: (1) Complete 
processing active pending geothermal lease applications; (2) amend BLM 
land use plans to allocate lands with geothermal potential as being 
closed or open with minor to major constraints to leasing; and (3) 
provide suitable information to the FS to facilitate its subsequent 
consent decisions for BLM leasing on NFS lands.
    Over 530 million acres of the Western U.S. and Alaska have been 
identified as potentially containing geothermal resources suitable for 
commercial electrical generation and other direct uses, such as 
heating. Much of the resource base is held in the Federal mineral 
estate, for which the BLM has the delegated authority for processing 
and issuing geothermal leases. The BLM is prohibited from issuing 
leases on statutorily closed lands (see 43 CFR 3201.11), including 
Wilderness Areas, wilderness study areas, lands contained in a unit of 
the National Park System, National Recreation Areas, Indian trust or 
restricted lands, and the Island Park Geothermal Areas (around the 
border of Yellowstone National Park). Other areas closed to leasing by 
existing laws, regulations, and Executive Orders include National 
Monuments and designated wild rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers 
    Under the Proposed Action, the BLM would also apply discretionary 
closures to: (1) Areas of Critical Environmental Concern where the BLM 
determines that geothermal leasing and development would be 
incompatible with the purposes for which the ACEC was designated, or 
that have management plans that expressly preclude new leasing; (2) 
National Conservation Areas, except the California Desert Conservation 
Area; and (3) other lands in the BLM's National Landscape Conservation 
System, such as historic and scenic trails.
    The Notice of Intent to prepare the PEIS, published in the Federal 
Register (72 FR 32679) on June 13, 2007, initiated the public scoping 
process and invited the public to provide comments on the scope and 
objectives of the PEIS. During the scoping process, the BLM and FS held 
public scoping meetings in ten cities across the Western U.S., 
including Alaska. Over 170 individuals attended the scoping meetings.
    The NOA announcing the RMP amendments and Draft PEIS was published 
in the Federal Register on June 13, 2008. The public was given the 
opportunity to provide comments on the RMP amendments and Draft PEIS 
from June 13, 2008, to September 19, 2008. The BLM and FS held 13 
public meetings to collect comments and answer questions on the RMP 
amendments and Draft PEIS. Meetings were held in Reno, Nevada; Salt 
Lake City, Utah; Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver, 
Colorado; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Helena, Montana; Boise, Idaho; Seattle, 
Washington; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; Anchorage, 
Alaska; and Fairbanks, Alaska. About 220 people attended the meetings. 
The RMP amendments and Draft PEIS were posted on the project Web site 
at http://www.blm.gov/Geothermal_EIS and provided on request as a CD 
or printed document.
    Sixty-three individuals or organizations submitted comment letters 
with about 500 unique comments on the RMP amendments and Draft PEIS. In 
addition, two form letters were received. One form letter generated 
over 700 copies pertaining to development in areas with sensitive 
resources, such as National Parks. The second form letter generated 
over 20 copies about development in the Medicine Lake, California, 
    Public comments on the RMP amendments and Draft PEIS have been 
incorporated into Volume 3 of the PEIS. The public provided input on a 
wide variety of issues. The most prevalent comment pertained to 
geothermal development in areas with sensitive resources, followed by 
water resources and compatibility with other resource uses, such as 
recreation and grazing.
    Public comments on the RMP amendments and Draft PEIS were 
considered and incorporated, as appropriate, into the proposed RMP 
amendments and Final PEIS. Public comments resulted in the addition of 
clarifying text for the analysis and proposed action, but did not 
significantly change the proposed action.
    Approximately 143 million acres of public (BLM) lands and 104 
million acres of NFS lands have geothermal potential. The proposed RMP 
amendments and Final PEIS proposes to identify approximately 118 
million acres of public lands and 79 million acres of NFS lands as 
available to potential geothermal leasing subject to existing laws, 
regulations, formal orders, stipulations attached to the lease form, 
and terms and conditions of the standard lease form. To protect special 
resource values, the BLM and FS have developed a comprehensive list of 
stipulations, conditions of approval, and BMPs.
    In addition, a reasonable foreseeable development (RFD) scenario 
was developed to predict future geothermal development trends. The RFD 
scenario in the proposed RMP amendments and Final PEIS estimates a 
potential for 5,540 megawatts (MW) of new electric generation capacity 
from 111 new geothermal power plants in the 11 Western States and 
Alaska by 2015. It also estimated an additional 6,600 MW from another 
133 plants by 2025. The RFD scenario recognizes the great potential for 
direct uses, including up to 270 western communities being able to 
develop geothermal resources for heating buildings to offset the use of 
conventional energy sources.

[[Page 63432]]

    As noted above, the BLM manages the public lands pursuant to FLPMA. 
Under FLPMA, in order for geothermal resource leasing and development 
to take place on the public lands that BLM manages, such activities 
must be provided for in the land use plan (also termed resource 
management plan or RMP) for the affected administrative unit. Under the 
Proposed Action, the BLM would amend 122 RMPs to adopt the allocations, 
stipulations, best management practices, and procedures analyzed in the 
PEIS. Therefore, in most cases, the BLM would be able to issue 
geothermal leases on the basis of the analysis contained in this 
document. The FS would use the document to facilitate subsequent 
consent decisions for leasing on NFS lands. The following BLM RMPs and 
Management Framework Plans (MFPs) (provided in Chapter 2 of the Final 
PEIS) are proposed for amendment:

    Table 1--BLM Land Use Plans Proposed for Amendment Under the PEIS
               State                          Land use plan(s)
ALASKA............................  Central Yukon RMP, Kobuk-Seward RMP,
                                     Ring of Fire RMP.
ARIZONA...........................  Arizona Strip RMP, Kingman RMP, Lake
                                     Havasu RMP, Lower Gila North MFP,
                                     Lower Gila South RMP, Phoenix RMP,
                                     Safford RMP, Yuma RMP.
CALIFORNIA........................  Alturas RMP, Arcata RMP, Bishop RMP,
                                     Caliente RMP, Cedar Creek/Tule
                                     Mountain Integrated RMP, E. San
                                     Diego County RMP, Eagle Lake RMP,
                                     Headwaters RMP, Hollister RMP,
                                     Redding RMP, S. Diablo Mountain
                                     Range and Central Coast RMP, South
                                     Coast RMP, Surprise RMP, West
                                     Mojave RMP.
COLORADO..........................  Glenwood Springs RMP, Grand Junction
                                     RMP, Gunnison RMP, Kremmling RMP,
                                     Little Snake RMP, Northeast RMP,
                                     Royal Gorge RMP, San Juan/San
                                     Miguel RMP, Uncompahgre Basin RMP,
                                     White River RMP.
IDAHO.............................  Bennett Hills/Timmerman Hills MFP,
                                     Big Desert MFP, Big Lost MFP,
                                     Bruneau MFP, Cascade RMP, Cassia
                                     RMP, Challis RMP, Chief Joseph MFP,
                                     Jarbidge RMP, Kuna MFP, Lemhi RMP,
                                     Little Lost-Birch MFP, Magic MFP,
                                     Malad MFP, Medicine Lodge RMP,
                                     Monument RMP, Owyhee RMP, Pocatello
                                     RMP, Sun Valley MFP, Twin Falls
MONTANA...........................  Big Dry RMP, Billings Resource Area
                                     RMP, Dillon RMP, Garnet Resource
                                     Area RMP, Judith Valley Phillips
                                     RMP, North Headwaters RMP, Powder
                                     River Resource Area RMP, West
                                     HiLine RMP.
NEVADA............................  Carson City Consolidated RMP, Elko
                                     RMP, Las Vegas RMP, Paradise-Denio
                                     MFP, Shoshone-Eureka RMP, Sonoma-
                                     Gerlach MFP, Tonopah RMP, Wells
NEW MEXICO........................  Carlsbad RMP, Farmington RMP,
                                     MacGregor Range RMP, Mimbres RMP,
                                     Rio Puerco RMP, Roswell RMP,
                                     Socorro RMP, Taos RMP, White Sands
OREGON............................  Brothers/LaPine RMP, Eugene District
                                     RMP, John Day River MP, John Day
                                     RMP, Lower Deschutes RMP, Medford
                                     RMP, Roseburg RMP, Salem RMP, Three
                                     Rivers RMP, Two Rivers RMP.
UTAH..............................  Book Cliffs MFP, Box Elder RMP,
                                     Cedar Beaver Garfield Antimony RMP,
                                     Diamond Mountain RMP, Henry
                                     Mountain MFP, House Range Resource
                                     Area RMP, Iso-tract MFP, Mountain
                                     Valley MFP, Paria MFP, Park City
                                     MFP, Parker Mountain MFP, Pinyon
                                     MFP, Pony Express RMP, Randolph
                                     MFP, St. George (formerly Dixie)
                                     RMP, Vermilion MFP, Warm Springs
                                     Resource Area RMP, Zion MFP.
WASHINGTON........................  Spokane RMP.
WYOMING...........................  Big Horn Basin RMP, Buffalo RMP,
                                     Cody RMP, Grass Creek RMP, Great
                                     Divide RMP, Green River RMP,
                                     Kemmerer RMP, Lander RMP, Newcastle
                                     RMP, Pinedale RMP, Platte River
                                     RMP, Snake River RMP, Waskakie RMP.

    In addition to the Proposed Action, the PEIS evaluates two other 
alternatives: The No Action Alternative and an alternative termed 
Leasing Near Transmission Lines. Under the No Action Alternative, no 
land use plans would be amended. Therefore, lease applications would 
continue to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and would require 
additional environmental review and possible land use plan amendments.
    The Leasing Near Transmission Lines Alternative was developed based 
on input from scoping. Under this alternative, the scope of lands 
considered for leasing for commercial electrical generation would be 
limited to those lands that are near transmission lines that currently 
exist or are under development. While this alternative minimizes the 
potential footprint of tie-in transmission lines from power plants to 
distribution lines, it would limit the potential for geothermal energy 
    Based on analysis within the PEIS and public comments on the Draft 
PEIS, the BLM has identified the Proposed Action as their preferred 
    The BLM initiated activities to coordinate and consult with the 
governors of each of the 12 states addressed in the PEIS and with state 
agencies. Prior to the issuance of a record of decision approving the 
land use plan amendments, the governor of each affected state will be 
given the opportunity to identify any inconsistencies between the 
proposed land use plan amendments and state or local plans and to 
provide recommendations in writing.
    Because developing this and other alternative energy resources is 
of strategic importance in enhancing the Nation's domestic energy 
supplies, the Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management, in the 
Department of the Interior is the responsible official for these 
proposed BLM RMP amendments. The FLPMA and its implementing regulations 
provide land use planning authority to the Secretary of the Interior, 
as delegated to this Assistant Secretary. The Assistant Secretary, Land 
and Minerals Management will be approving these proposed RMP 
amendments. Therefore, there will be no administrative review (protest) 
of the proposed amendments under the BLM or Departmental regulations 
(43 CFR 1610.5-2). The Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals 
Management, is the responsible official for the decision (Record of 
Decision) to be made with respect to the BLM RMP amendments.
    In addition to the programmatic analysis pertaining to the land use 
planning process, the PEIS provides environmental analysis for 19 
pending leases in 7 geographical locations in Alaska, California, 
Nevada, Oregon, and Washington that were pending as of January 1, 2005. 
The alternatives evaluated for this analysis are intended to support FS 
decision making as to whether or not to provide consent to the BLM 
lease decisions, and to support BLM decision making as to whether to 
issue or deny the lease.

[[Page 63433]]

    Dated: October 3, 2008.
Henri Bisson,
Deputy Director, Bureau of Land Management.

Gloria Manning,
Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service.
 [FR Doc. E8-25294 Filed 10-23-08; 8:45 am]