Renewable Energy: New Mexico Geothermal Energy Laws and Regulations

New Mexico classifies geothermal resources as "Mineral" if the fluid produced has a temperature greater than 250º F and as "Water" if the fluid produced has a temperature less than or equal to 250º F. The state claims ownership of geothermal resources when and where it holds the mineral rights. If the fluid produced is “mineral,” the resource is under the primary jurisdiction of the Oil Conservation Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department for drilling. The Office of the State Engineer of New Mexico regulates the extraction of heat from water under 250º F.

Both agencies coordinate with the US EPA, Region 8 and US EPA Region 6 which have authority over wastewater discharge to surface waters in the state. All agencies, in addition to the State Environment Department, have regulatory authority over geothermal discharge permits. The New Mexico State Land Office leases the lands of the state mineral estate (Battocletti 2005).

Geothermal fluid under 250º F is considered “water,” and the resource is under the primary responsibility of the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer in regards to drilling and permitting. New Mexico does not have comprehensive environmental review statutes. The state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requires 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 for investor-owned utilities (IOUs), 10 percent for rural co-ops and municipality utilities, with one kilowatt (kW) of geothermal energy counting as two kW (Richter 2007).

In addition to the state’s RPS, geothermal resource development qualifies for the US Department of the Interior Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s bond program (USDOE 2007). New Mexico has established a Geothermal Energy Working Group, with leadership from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

New Mexico does not have greenhouse gas (GHG) laws or pending legislation; however, the state has a GHG reduction target that outlines 2000 levels by 2012, 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 75 percent below 2000 levels by 2050 (Camp 2007).

*This information is from: Geothermal Energy Resources and Policies of the Western States, July 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Department of Agriculture United States Forest Service. For a full copy of this document, click here.

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