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Bubbling geothermal divides

Geothermal plant in Iceland

An Iceland geothermal plant. Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A Bureau of Land Management official outlined concerns with the GOP's geothermal permitting bills, highlighting divides about how to best boost the nascent industry.

Why it matters: The comments Wednesday from Ben Gruber, BLM's chief for energy, minerals and realty management programs, at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing suggest a difficult path ahead, despite bipartisan support for geothermal power.

Zoom in: Gruber took issue with Rep. Young Kim's legislation to exempt geothermal wells on private and state land from federal permitting and Rep. John Curtis' measure to limit judicial reviews of geothermal projects.

  • In short, he said they could weaken BLM's ability to comply with and enforce environmental laws.
  • He said BLM supports the goals of Russ Fulcher's bill to exempt exploratory geothermal wells from NEPA but has concerns about limiting public input on the permitting process.
  • Gruber sounded more supportive of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's legislation to create a cost recovery system for geothermal permits.

Our thought bubble: The skepticism from the Biden administration is a complication in the path for these bills — in a permitting package or on their own.

  • But everyone at Wednesday's hearing — including Gruber — sounded pretty peachy about the future for enhanced geothermal tech.
  • "I am encouraged by and grateful for the majority's openness to geothermal development," Ocasio-Cortez said.
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