Las Vegas Sun

July 26, 2017

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Senate amends bill to restore geothermal money to counties

The U.S. Senate today approved an amendment to the Department of Interior's appropriations bill that reallocates a portion of royalties and lease payments to counties with geothermal plants on federal land.

The amendment was approved for inclusion today in the American Workers and Business Relief Act, which is expected to pass the Senate on Wednesday. It gives counties their share of royalties and lease income from geothermal plants within their borders, dating back to the beginning of the federal fiscal year.

“Today is a big win for our state,” Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said.  “The economy across our state has been truly hurting and the loss of geothermal royalties last year has cost counties in Nevada to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our legislation will ensure that our state and counties receive their cut of geothermal royalties and will ensure that the economy in our state will not be forced to take another hit when it comes to monetary and job losses that stem from losing out on geothermal royalties.”

The House of Representatives has not yet addressed its version of the amendment, authored by Congressmen Dean Heller and Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

The state of Nevada and rural northern counties receive millions of dollars in royalties and lease revenue from geothermal companies with plants on public land in the state each year. The 2005 Energy Policy Act made it possible for counties to collect a quarter of the revenue from leases and royalties on geothermal plants in their borders.

Home states would collect half the revenue and the federal government could keep the last quarter.

Since the law was first implemented in 2007, Nevada counties have taken in nearly $17.8 million from royalties and lease income. The state has gotten nearly $35.6 million.

With a boom in geothermal energy expected over the next decade, the counties stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from geothermal leases and royalties.

The federal government in October began commandeering counties’ share of geothermal royalties and lease income, when the new Interior Department federal fiscal year 2010 budget went into effect.

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