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BLM with plans to open large area in California to geothermal development

Eastern Sierra, Lone Pines, Inyo, California (source: flickr/ m01229, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 24 Jan 2020

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is preparing opening up formerly protected desert area to geothermal development in Inyo County, California, a decision not undisputed as it rolls back desert protection in the state.

As reported widely in the U.S. yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in California is planning to open up to 22,800 acres of public land to geothermal development in California.

Releasing the environmental analysis for the proposed Haiwee geothermal leasing area, BLM is taking first steps to open leasing of the area in Inyo County, California for geothermal exploration, development and utilization, including 9,300 acres of Development Focus Area.

The proposed Haiwee Geothermal Leasing Area Project supports the Trump Administration’s goals of achieving energy independence and economic growth. If approved, the project would facilitate opportunities to generate revenue for the Inyo County community—contributing $72 million annually during its peak construction and $3 million annually during operations. The project would also create job opportunities by hiring 250 temporary and 65 permanent employees. The total project investment amounts to approximately $1 billion.

The Final EIS provides a comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts for the proposed Land Use Plan Amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area plan. Additionally, the BLM analyzed three pending geothermal lease applications on public lands within the Haiwee Geothermal Leasing Area and modifications to the management of four Areas of Critical Environmental Concern to allow for surface occupancy of geothermal development within the leasing area

The publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on Jan. 24, opens a 30-day protest period and a 60-day governor’s consistency review. Pending the outcome of the protest period and Governor’s consistency review, the BLM will issue a Record of Decision. Information about the project, along with the agency preferred alternative and instructions for filing a protest, is available online at: https://go.usa.gov/xEnvy.

The public is reminded that personal addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other personal identifying information included in submitted comments may be made publicly available at any time. The public may request the BLM withhold personal identifying information from public review; however, the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.

The decision is though not undisputed, as it could “mark the beginning of the end of California’s desert protections. During the Obama administration, deals were cut on which lands would be conserved, which would be leased for mining and energy development, and which would be designated for recreation.”

Legal challenges to the decision are expected to prevent “access roads, pipelines, drilling rigs and trucks from intruding into the Rose Valley and desert areas.”, according to conservation groups.

Source: BLM releaseLA Times