Geothermal's Prior Appropriation Problem


Justin Plaskov


Geothermal energy production is an attractive way to helpmeet our nation's future energy needs due to its low emissions, minimal environmental impact, and ability to serve as a baseload power. In the 1960s, Congress recognized our nation's abundant geothermal resources and authorized their development on public lands through the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970. However, geothermal development did not take off as Congress anticipated. One reason for this is that state water laws in the West inhibit its growth. This Comment begins with a primer on geothermal energy production. Next, it looks at how state water laws hinder geothermal development and gives a state-by-state depiction of how these laws apply to geothermal resources. Ultimately, this Comment argues for regulatory reform and focuses on ways around state water laws through the doctrine of federal reserved water rights, preemption, and coproduction

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