RAPID/Geothermal/Oregon/Land Access

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Oregon Geothermal Land & Geothermal Resource Access(3-OR)

In order to develop geothermal resources in Oregon, developers must obtain a lease and, any required easements to access state lands, including any necessary permits to encroach on existing state Rights-of-Way (ROWs). The land access process differs significantly depending on the temperature of the resource the developer seeks to extract. In Oregon, geothermal resources, including hot brines and waters associated with the resource, are considered minerals for regulatory purposes. Oregon uses a temperature threshold to define geothermal resources. In order to be considered a “geothermal resource” the highest-temperature in a given geologic formation must be greater than 250 degrees Fahrenheit. See ORS 537.090 and ORS 522.

Oregon claims ownership of all geothermal resources located on state land and some resources on land previously owned by the state, see ORS 273.775 to 273.790. Where the geothermal resource is greater than 250 degrees Fahrenheit, the developer may apply for a geothermal lease by way of either a competitive bid lease sale or a non-competitive leasing process through the Oregon Department of State Lands (ODSL). ORS 273.775 to 273.790. If the land is within a Designated Geothermal Resources Area (DGRA), the ODSL will likely facilitate the competitive leasing process. Otherwise, the ODSL will likely facilitate the noncompetitive leasing process. Where the resource is not greater than 250 degrees Fahrenheit (hereafter “low-temp”), developers may still be able to extract low-temp resources by complying with Oregon water laws for rules related to water appropriation and drilling water wells, administered by the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD). ORS 537.

Competitive Mineral Leasing Process

Oregon owns all geothermal resources located on state land and any geothermal resources reserved by the state as part of previous ownership. ORS 273.775 to 273.790. Upon receipt of a geothermal resource lease application, the ODSL will determine whether to facilitate competitive leasing procedures or to utilize the noncompetitive process and negotiate with the developer. The competitive process, generally used for leasing lands within a Designated Geothermal Resource Area (DGRA), is regulated by OAR 141-075-0520. The ODSL will post public notice of a bid sale, review all bids received, and award a geothermal resource rights lease to the highest qualified bidder.

Noncompetitive Mineral Leasing Process

Noncompetitive geothermal leases are the default leasing option for exploring and drilling on state lands. Upon receipt of a complete application, the ODSL will notify any affected state agencies and the public of the opportunity to participate in a hearing. OAR 141-075-0265. The ODSL will only issue a geothermal resource lease if it is within the best interests of the state. Geothermal leases have a primary term of 10 years and the developer must comply with any terms and conditions required by the ODSL. OAR 141-075-0265 to 0275.

State Right of Way Process

For access roads, trails, ditches, field gathering or transmission lines across state land that is not a part of a geothermal or state land lease, developers may submit an Application for an easement on trust and non-trust land with the ODSL. OAR 141-122. Developers may also obtain an easement for production facilities necessary to recovery minerals from adjacent lands under valid lease. The ODSL will forward complete applications to potentially affected state agencies and make the application available for public comment. OAR 141-122-0050.

Encroachment Permits

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) issues permits for encroachments on state highway right of ways. OAR 734-051-1050(3)(b). Encroachments include the building of new approaches, the installation, maintenance, and operation of utility facilities such as pipe lines, pole lines, buried cable, and conduits, and other activities that may affect the right of way. Depending on the type of encroachment, developers may submit an Application to Occupy or Perform Operations Upon a State Highway or an Application for State Highway Approach. The ODOT will only issue either type of permit in accordance with OAR 734-051-3040(8)

More Information

Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.

Permitting at a Glance

Oregon Federal

Leasing Agency: Oregon Department of State Lands Bureau of Land Management
Competitive Land Leasing: If the land is within a Designated Geothermal Resources Area (DGRA), the Oregon Department of State Lands will likely facilitate the competitive leasing process.
Noncompetitive Land Leasing: If the land is outside a Designated Geothermal Resource Area (DGRA), the Oregon Department of State Lands will likely facilitate a non-competitive leasing process.