House unanimously passes Brown bill to advance geothermal exploration

By a vote of 98 to 0, the House of Representatives today passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown that advances research on renewable energy by improving the permitting process for geothermal exploration.

“Geothermal energy is a clean, renewable, environmentally-friendly resource that new technology and research are making even more viable,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “I’m pleased to see the House and the Senate come together to unanimously approve this important reform bill that makes it easier to conduct geothermal exploration.”

State law requires a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources for the drilling or redrilling of a well for geothermal-resource extraction. The permits are approved only after a public hearing in the county associated with the well. Public-hearing notices must be published twice in a newspaper of general circulation within the county.

Under Senate Bill 5470, as amended by the House, a person drilling multiple core holes while gathering geothermal test data only has to pay a single permit fee of $200 to DNR. The bill also eliminates redundant public hearings and notice requirements associated with geothermal core holes.

“This bill is about streamlining the process to make it easier to explore this new clean-energy resource and create great jobs in this industry,” said Brown, who called the measure crucial to creating a long-term environment conducive to both clean energy and economic development.

“As the state continues to look for clean, affordable and renewable energy, it is vital that we think strategically about fostering innovation, exploring emerging technologies and preparing Washington to supply a workforce capable of filling the next generation of emerging energy jobs.”

Because the bill was amended in the House, the measure now returns to the Senate, where Brown and her colleagues will have an opportunity to agree with the House changes.