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Washington Drilling and Well Development (5-WA-a)

In Washington geothermal drilling and well development are regulated by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WSDNR). Any developer seeking to drill a geothermal production well, re-drill an abandoned well, or drill a core hole deeper than 750ft must complete the entire WSDNR drilling permit process (which requires notice and a public hearing) and require that the developer complete the RCW 43.21C State Environmental Policy (SEPA) process. For core holes less than 750ft deep, developers are relieved form the public notice and hearing requirement.

In Washington geothermal resources are regulated under RCW 78.60 Geothermal Resources and WAC 332-17 Geothermal Drilling Rules and Regulations.

Note, Pursuant to RCW 78.60.060, developers that remove and reinject water in a “closed loop” system in order to obtain geothermal resources are not subject to the appropriation rules and procedures outlined in RCW 90.44 Regulation of public groundwaters. In addition, water reasonably lost during the testing of a geothermal well or the temporary failure of a “closed loop” system is exempted from RCW 90.44.

Drilling and Well Development Process

5-WA-a.1 – Geothermal Exploration Permit Application and Forms

To obtain a Geothermal Drilling Permit the developer must submit Geothermal Exploration Permit Application and associated fees and documents to the WSDNR. The WSDNR has created Instructions for Geothermal Exploration Permit.

Depending on the number of wells to be drilled, the developer will be required to submit the appropriate fees and bonds, a SEPA environmental checklist, and a completed application. The application will require a technical description of the exploration and/or well, a map of the area by a licensed surveyor, and a narrative statement describing proposed measures to be used for protection of the environment.

5-WA-a.2 to 5-WA-a.3 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The WSDNR will review the application for completeness.

5-WA-a.4 – Initiate State Environmental Policy Act Review

As part of the Geothermal Drilling Permit the developer is required to initiate SEPA, including submitting a SEPA environmental checklist with the application.

State Environmental Overview:

If the developer will drill on state owned lands, the agency that owns or manages the land will be the lead agency and will start the SEPA process.

5-WA-a.5 – Conduct Site Inspection

A Geothermal Supervisor from the WSDNR will order an inspection of the site. The WSDNR suggests that the developer be present at the site at the time of the inspection.

Following the site inspection, the WSDNR Geothermal Supervisor (or the representative of the lead SEPA agency) will make a determination of significance or non-significance under SEPA.

5-WA-a.6 – Will There be a Production Well or a Core Hole Deeper than 750ft?

Under RCW 78.60.070 any core hole that penetrates more than 750ft will be deemed a geothermal test well and subject to the permitting requirements of a geothermal production well, including notice and public hearing.

5-WA-a.7 to 5-WA-a.8 – Post Public Hearing Notice

After receiving a proper application for geothermal drilling the WSDNR will set a date, time, and place for a public hearing on the application. The developer is required to post public notice of the hearing twice in a local newspaper of general circulation. ( RCW 78.60.070)

5-WA-a.9 – Is the Permit Granted?

A Geothermal Drilling Permit permit will be granted only if the WSDNR is satisfied that:

  • The area is suitable for the activities applied for;
  • The applicant will be able to comply with the the rules and regulations enacted; and
  • A permit would be in the best interests of the state.

RCW 78.60.080

The WSDNR will not allow operation of a well if it finds that the operation will unreasonably decrease groundwater available, unless such affected water rights are acquired by condemnation, purchase or other means. ( RCW 78.60.080)

5-WA-a.10 – File Petition for Reconsideration

If the WSDNR decides not to issue a permit the developer has the option to petition for reconsideration. Under RCW 34.05.470, within ten days of the service of a final order, any party may file a petition for reconsideration, stating the specific grounds upon which relief is requested.

5-WA-a.11 to 5-WA-a.12 – Geothermal Drilling Permit

The WSDNR issues Geothermal Drilling Permits. The developer is required to abide by the rules and regulations set out in RCW 78.60 Geothermal Resources and WAC 332-17 Geothermal Drilling Rules and Regulations related to the drilling and development of the well.

5-WA-a.12 – Well Record or History

Within 30 days of completing the well the developer is required to file a Well Record or History (Geothermal Form 2) with the WSDNR.

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Contact Information

Edit Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Drilling and Well-Development Contact 360.402.1939 daveabbazabbanorman@dnrabbazabbawaabbazabbagov Visit Website