Geothermal development blocked for areas within the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico

Valles Caldera, Santa Fe National Park, New Mexico (source: flickr/ Larry Lamsa, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 15 Jun 2018

The Santa Fe National Forest has released a decision on geothermal leasing within the boundaries of this national forest in the State of New Mexico, essentially blocking a project proposed by a geothermal developer from Nevada.

Yesterday, the Santa Fe National Forest in the State of New Mexico has released its decision on geothermal leasing on 36,000 acres in the national forest area.

In 2008, the Bureau of Land Management recommended and the Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management approved the ROD associated with the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States. This led to a decision to amend BLM resource area management plans and provided analysis to allow certain National Forests to make decisions on existing lease applications. Decisions in the 2008 Geothermal ROD identified those lands that are legally open or closed to consideration for geothermal leasing on affected National Forest System (NFS) lands; it provided stipulations, best management practices, and procedures for geothermal leasing and development. The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) determined that additional site-specific environmental analysis was needed to supplement the 2008 Geothermal PEIS, before we could make a decision about providing concurrence and consent to the BLM to lease lands in the SFNF.

With the released decision, the Santa Fe National Forest essentially blocked geothermal development on a proposed project site within its boundaries. Ormat Nevada of Reno, Nevada, filed notice with the BLM back in 2015 expressing interest in leasing 46,000 acres on the north and northwest side of the Valles Caldera for geothermal energy exploration and development. The land is part of 195,000 acres within the Santa Fe National Forest that has “significant geothermal potential,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In the end the company sought a lease covering 36,000 acres.

In his decision, Forest Supervisor James Melonas actually blocked any geothermal leasing for five times the area sought by the developer. See details in the decision document linked below.

Source: U.S. DA – Santa Fe National Forest (pdf)