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Gov. Justice Approves State Geothermal Regulation Program

West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection will have regulatory oversight of geothermal energy and will create a permitting system within the department and allow the DEP to issue civil penalties up to $500.

(TNS) — Gov. Jim Justice has signed into law a bill that sets up a state regulatory program for geothermal energy in West Virginia.

Justice on Monday signed into law House Bill 4098, which gives the Department of Environmental Protection regulatory oversight of geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source within the Earth that is used to heat buildings and provide electricity.

HB 4098 grants ownership rights to geothermal resources to the owner of surface property over the resource unless severance of the geothermal resource is clear in documentation conveying ownership of it.

The bill requires the DEP to create a permitting system for geothermal development for which it must establish temperature levels and volumetric flow rates. The legislation would make the agency responsible for establishing rules for geothermal drilling and site reclamation — including proper plugging — after a well no longer is used.

West Virginia University geothermal research plans prompted the bill.

House Energy and Manufacturing Committee counsel Robert Akers previously told that committee, which was first to approve the bill, that a permit for the university is the only one that would be pending initially under a new geothermal regulatory program.

HB 4098 allows the DEP to issue civil penalties ranging from $100 to $500 for each violation of rules established under the bill, and take civil action against violators in any circuit court where a well is located for injunctive relief.

The new law excludes geothermal heating and cooling heat pump systems for private residential dwellings and farm buildings from DEP jurisdiction. It also excludes any horizontal system less than 30 feet deep and any geothermal system regulated by a state Bureau of Public Health legislative rule for water well design standards from regulation.

Lawmakers intend for the bill to apply to wells thousands of feet underground.

Samuel Taylor, assistant director of strategic partnerships and technology at the WVU Energy Institute, handed out PowerPoint slides to Energy and Manufacturing Committee members in January. The slides showed that Northern West Virginia could be a potential "hot spot" for geothermal energy.

A map on one slide showed hotter patches of Earth in the region than most of the rest of the Eastern United States.

Another slide noted that geothermal could be a popular alternative energy source as companies with local footprints, like Chemours and Dow, strive to meet company-set carbon dioxide emission-reduction goals.

The university's U.S. Department of Energy-funded project includes drilling and sampling a deep-exploratory well to a depth of 15,000 feet to validate subsurface temperatures, according to one of the PowerPoint slides from Taylor. The slide noted that a focus of the project is to gauge the potential of heating the university campus using a geothermal resource.


(c)2022 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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