Geothermal Permitting and NEPA TImelines

Katherine R. Young, Kermit Witherbee, Aaron Levine, Adam Keller, Jeremy Balu, Mitchell Bennett

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

10 Scopus Citations


In identifying the barriers to geothermal development, geothermal industry stakeholders list high up-front capital costs, perceived risk profiles, overall project timelines, and the need for a more streamlined permitting process (Blue Ribbon Panel, 2011; Island- sbanki Report, 2011). Because 90% of the geothermal resources in the United States are on federally managed lands (BLM, 2005) and multiple National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) analyses are commonly required for the development of utility-scale geothermal projects, NEPA considerations are a major factor in present and future geothermal development projects. Thus, the time required for the NEPA process itself and the potential for delays in permitting attributable to the NEPA process can be a major barrier in present and future geothermal development projects. In this paper, we outline the types of NEPA-related analyses and approvals (e.g., environmental assessment), and we provide examples of geothermal development activities (e.g., well drilling) that might require each type of approval, including an overview and discussion of the specific permits. We conducted an in-depth analysis of timelines specific to each NEPA analysis type, and we analyzed a sample of geothermal projects to identify factors that increased NEPA review timelines. Based on that analysis, we identified proven and potential strategies that can assist geothermal projects by lowering the time necessary to navigate the NEPA process, while maintaining the efficacy of the federal environmental review intact. We also identified areas of potential improvement in NEPA efficiency within each phase of geothermal development. Shortening project timelines can effectively decrease the perceived risk profiles of geothermal development projects.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2014
EventGeothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting - Geothermal: A Global Solution, GRC 2014 - Portland, United States
Duration: 28 Sep 20141 Oct 2014


ConferenceGeothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting - Geothermal: A Global Solution, GRC 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © (2014) by the Geothermal Resources Council.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-6A20-61973


  • Categorical exclusion
  • CE
  • CX
  • Determination of NEPA adequacy
  • DNA
  • EA
  • EIS
  • Environmental assessment
  • Environmental impact statement
  • National Environmental Policy Act
  • Nepa
  • NEPA Database
  • OpenEI
  • Permitting
  • Timeline


Dive into the research topics of 'Geothermal Permitting and NEPA TImelines'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this