The Harnessing Energy at Thermal Sources Act (H.R. 7409)

H.R. 7409

The Harnessing Energy at Thermal Sources Act (HEATS) would allow geothermal projects to provide a state drilling permit for geothermal exploration and production activities for projects located where the federal government owns less than 50 percent of the subsurface estate, in lieu of the requirement to obtain a federal permit. The bill defines these projects as non-major federal actions, exempting them from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requirement for an environmental impact statement.


H.R. 7409 will accelerate the demonstration and deployment of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). By limiting the permitting and review processes for environmental impacts of geothermal projects, this act will enable the United States to unlock its geothermal potential. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) estimates  an EGS resource potential in the U.S. alone of over 5,000 gigawatts, more than 400 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. A recent DOE analysis found that by 2050, the total amount of installed geothermal could reach 90 GW in the U.S., providing over 10 percent of all US electricity generation.
Cutting unnecessary red tape for geothermal projects with small environmental footprints and well-understood technology is a responsible way to expand geothermal energy resources without reducing environmental standards. H.R. 7409 is an important step in unleashing the full potential of geothermal energy.


Under the current NEPA structure, federal agencies are required to determine the environmental impact of proposed actions. Across energy types, the NEPA review process takes an average of 4.5 years to complete, but due to litigation and lack of coordination, some reviews can take 10 or more years. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the oil and gas industry is exempt from NEPA reviews depending on the size of the project. EGS projects often use the same technology as the oil and gas industry, making them well-suited to benefit from an expedited review process.
Geothermal energy projects are well suited for an expedited permitting review. As a zero carbon resource, geothermal offers 24/7 clean power and/or heating generation that can be used in the power and industrial sectors. Geothermal has a much smaller geographic footprint than other renewable energy projects. Geothermal energy uses 70 percent less land per KWh than wind, and 88 percent less than solar.
Moreover EGS projects use existing drilling technology from the oil and gas industry to access geothermal resources not suitable for conventional geothermal energy production means. This drilling technology is covered under a categorical exclusion for oil & gas development under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but does not currently include applications of this same technology for geothermal energy projects. This bill would be a step in the right direction for a technology inclusive permitting process. The well-understood, marginal environmental impacts of enhanced geothermal projects make it a viable candidate for exclusion under NEPA.


H.R. 7409 amends The Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, removing the requirement to obtain a federal permit for geothermal exploration and production activities. The bill also excludes geothermal projects from being considered a “major Federal action” for the purposes of section 102(2)(C) of NEPA.


Rep. Young Kim (R-CA)


Rep. John Duarte (R-CA)


ClearPath Action


H.R. 7409


Printable summary of H.R. 7409