Geothermal/Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

From Open Energy Information

Geothermal Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) are areas that require specific management methods to ensure irreversible damage to important historical, cultural, scenic values, fish, wildlife or other natural systems. An ACEC also strives to protect human life from natural disasters. ACEC’s are designated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA Section 103 (43 US Code 1702[a]) and 43 Code of Federal Regulations 1601.0-5(a)).

The Department of the Interior (DOI) standardized the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) in May 2007, making it specific to geothermal leasing. In addition, 114 BLM offices revised their resource management plans to open 111 million acres of land to geothermal leasing, including ACEC.

In order to qualify as an ACEC, the site must meet one of more of the following:

  • Has worth beyond local qualities that give it specific “consequence, meaning, distinctiveness, or cause for concern, especially compared to any similar resource;”
  • Has characteristics that make it “fragile, sensitive, rare, irreplaceable, exemplary, unique, endangered, or threatened;”
  • Has special safety characteristics that enforce FLMPA;
  • Has unique characteristics that address public safety and management obstacles; and
  • Puts human life, safety or property in danger

San Juan National Forest Final Land and Resource Management Plan

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern Impacts & Mitigation

If an ACEC site exists at a proposed geothermal site there is a leasing form. Leasing on an ACEC is approved on a case-by-case basis since an area’s designation depends on several factors. If the permit is granted, an EIS may be needed.

To prevent further disturbances to plants and animals, combatting fugitive dust with reducing construction vehicle idling, watering down surfaces and enforcing a speed limit.

Factors Affecting Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

Activities allowed within ACECs

Activities allowed in ACEC’s are case-by-case because each area could have several criteria making it unique. Some ACEC sites allow energy resource extraction, while others do not. To check if a preliminary geothermal leasing site is within ACEC boundaries, visit the BLM’s state websites that have a list of current ACEC designations.