Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: Aug. 30, 2004
Assistant Secretary Watson Highlights Bush Commitment to Development of Geothermal Energy

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.-In remarks before the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Geothermal Resources Council today in Indian Wells, Calif., Rebecca Watson, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management shared the Bush Administration's commitment to developing geothermal and other renewable energy sources.

"The President's National Energy Policy includes not only enhancing supplies of renewable and nonrenewable energy, but also places an important focus on conservation," Watson said. "Geothermal energy is a proven example. That is why Interior is placing such a priority on the
development of geothermal energy on public lands."

Watson reminded the group that the Interior Department manages 1 in every 5 acres of public lands in this country and has long been a leader in support of the development and use of renewable energy resources, including geothermal.

Watson explained that "The President has given geothermal energy production a tremendous jumpstart since he took office. His National Energy Policy urged us to reduce geothermal lease backlogs and examine opportunities for increased geothermal development on public lands, which we are doing," she said. "In the past 3 ½ years, this administration has issued more than 200 geothermal leases, compared to fewer than 20 issued in the last four years of the prior administration."

Watson noted that Interior Secretary Gale Norton hosted two renewable energy conferences in 2001 and 2002 respectively, resulting in the White House Renewable Energy Report. In 2003, Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Energy co-published a report identifying the best places on federal land for wind, geothermal, solar and biomass energy development. Shortly thereafter, the two agencies issued a report focusing on the top 35 places with the potential for geothermal energy production

Watson said public lands managed by the Interior Department have a significant role to play in the development of domestic geothermal energy and other renewable energy resources. More than 260 million acres of land, primarily in the West, are managed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. BLM lands are managed for multiple uses, including energy development.

"We are also committed to developing wind energy. The BLM is preparing to issue a nationwide environmental impact statement on wind energy that will help the Bureau speed up its processing of permits," Watson said. "During the past four years, we have issued 46 permits for wind. During the entire eights years of the last administration, they issued only 12--little more than one per year."

"We realize that even 'green' energy has environmental impacts. As part of the leasing process, we put every proposed geothermal project through legally-required environmental and cultural analyses before issuing an energy lease or power plant license," Watson said.

Currently, lands managed by the Department of Interior provide more than 48 percent of the United States geothermal power. BLM has entered into more than 400 geothermal leases on the lands it manages. Fifty-five of those leases are capable of producing a total of 1,275 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes. Thirty-four geothermal power plants are currently producing electricity on BLM lands in three states.

Watson added, "We have also proposed legislation that would give the Minerals Management Service authority to license the development of wind power in the Outer Continental Shelf. This is a keystone to harnessing the clean energy potential of offshore wind." That legislation was included in the House and Senate energy bills, which still await enactment.

Lands managed by the Interior Department produce about 30 percent of the nation's energy supply. Approximately one-third of the country's natural gas, coal and oil, and one-half of geothermal, 17 percent of hydropower, and 20 percent of wind power are produced in areas managed by Interior.

The Interior Department is committed to implementing President Bush's long-term strategy to produce traditional sources of energy on federal land in an environmentally responsible way, and to increasing renewable energy production on federal land, involving all interested persons in a careful and open process to meet the nation's energy needs while protecting sensitive resources for future generations.

Assistant Secretary Watson is responsible for providing policy, priorities and oversight to the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. These three bureaus have responsibility for the production of about 30 percent of our domestic oil, natural gas and coal used to heat and cool our homes, fuel our cars and trucks, and power our high-tech economy. The Bureau of Land Management also manages about one-eighth of the land in the United States for a wide variety of uses benefiting the public including recreation, grazing, timber production, mining, wilderness, energy development and wildlife habitat.

For more information on the Interior Department's efforts to expand the development and use of renewable energy resources on public lands, visit




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