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Geothermal Steam Act of 1970

30 U.S.C. §§1001-1027

Statute Outline:

The Secretary of the Interior may issue leases for the development and use of geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources in lands administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) or the U.S. Forest Service, and in lands conveyed by the United States subject to a federal reservation of geothermal steam and other associated geothermal resources. [30 U.S.C. §1002]

The statute establishes rules governing the issuance and administration of geothermal steam leases. [30 U.S.C. §§1003-1013, 1015, 1017, 1022-1023]

Geothermal leases for lands that are withdrawn or acquired to aid in the DOI’s and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) functions may be issued only under such terms and conditions as the respective Secretary may prescribe to insure the adequate use of the lands for the purposes for which they were withdrawn or acquired. Similar provisions also exist for lands over which the U.S. Department of Energy has jurisdiction. [30 U.S.C. §1014(a), (b)]

Geothermal leases may not be issued on certain federal lands, including national recreation areas, fish hatcheries, wildlife conservation and management areas, and certain lands within the boundaries of Native American reservations. [30 U.S.C. §1014(c)]

The geothermal leasing system shall be administered in accordance with the principles of multiple use of land and resources. [30 U.S.C. §1016]

The statute requires federal departments and agencies, at the Secretary of the Interior’s request, to furnish data or knowledge concerning fair and adequate charges to be made for geothermal steam. The statute also provides the method by which all moneys received from geothermal steam leases shall be disposed of. [30 U.S.C. §§1018-1019]

All lessees must use all reasonable precautions to prevent waste of geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources. [30 U.S.C. §1022]

The Secretary shall prescribe such rules for geothermal steam leases as the Secretary deems appropriate, including provisions for the prevention of waste, development and conservation of natural resources, protection of the public interest, and protection of water quality and other environmental qualities. [30 U.S.C. §1023]

The statute provides that certain laws providing for or restricting the disposal of land based on its mineral character are deemed to treat geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources as a “substance” which either must be reserved or must prevent or restrict the disposal of such land. [30 U.S.C. §1024]

The United States reserves ownership of and the right to extract certain resources from geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources on lands leased under the statute, provided that whenever such right is exercised, it shall not cause substantial interference with the production of geothermal steam and associated geothermal resources from such lands. [30 U.S.C. §1025]

The Secretary shall maintain a list of significant thermal features within the National Park System. The Secretary shall also maintain a monitoring program for such features, including a research program for collecting and assessing data on geothermal resources with significant thermal features. The Secretary shall not issue leases for activities that are reasonably likely to have a significant adverse effect on a significant thermal feature, and shall include stipulations in leases and permits that are necessary to protect such thermal features. The Secretary of Agriculture must also consider the effects on significant thermal features in determining whether to consent to leasing on lands the USDA administers. [30 U.S.C. §1026]

The Secretary of the Interior may not issue any lease on lands that are being recommended for wilderness allocation, certain wilderness study areas, and certain other areas referenced in the statute. [30 U.S.C. §1027]

Full Statute:

The statute is available from the U.S. Government Publishing Office: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2017-title30/html/USCODE-2017-title30-chap23.htm