Thursday, 18 July 2024

Federal legislation restores geothermal royalties to counties

LAKE COUNTY – After months of effort by local and federal officials, new legislation signed last week restores geothermal royalty and lease revenues to counties across the western United States.


Last month the House of Representatives passed the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, HR 4899, which President Barack Obama signed on July 29.


The legislation amends for the 2010 fiscal year provisions of the Department of the Interior Appropriations Bill, HR 2996, passed last fall, which deemed that there would be no geothermal revenues for counties in the current fiscal year, as Lake County News has reported.


It's an important development for Lake County, which – thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – has received several million dollars from leases and royalties based on the county's geothermal development.


“The geothermal royalties are a very important revenue source for Lake County,” said County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who led the charge locally to restore the funds after it was discovered last fall that they had been taken away.


Congressman Mike Thompson, who has worked since last year to restore the funding, told Lake County News in a Tuesday interview that the funding issue could have been fixed earlier had it been discovered, but he noted, “It wasn't found out until late in the game.”


He added, “It was a very, very sneaky move on somebody's part.”


Thompson, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he put restoration of the funding in four bills which passed the House of Representatives but which didn't make it through the Senate.


He also worked with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada on the issue, with Reid putting it in two previous Senate bills, Thompson said.


“I have literally worked on this every day since it was determined there was a problem,” Thompson said.


Cox said the payments are made in monthly increments.


For the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years, Lake County received a total of $3.6 million, the most of any county in the United States, followed by Sonoma County, as Lake County News has reported.


According to Department of the Interior statistics, Lake County received $824,269.63 for 2009.


Those funds have been used locally for projects such as the Mt. Konocti land purchase, the county reported.


The Energy Policy Act gave geothermal energy-producing states 50 percent of geothermal sales, bonuses, rentals and royalties, with 25 percent to the counties where the resources are located, according to the legislation.


More than 30 counties in six states – California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and New Mexico – have received benefit from the legislation, according to Department of the Interior records.


Despite the funds being taken away last year, the federal government made a mistake and sent out checks to counties anyway.


Lake County received a payment for just over $256,000, with Cox receiving a letter from a Department of the Interior official in May asking for the funds back, as Lake County News has reported.


The new legislation is retroactive so the county won't have to repay those mistakenly issued funds, said Cox.


While the problem is fixed for now, Cox is concerned about the future, noting that it's his understanding that the Obama administration is proposing to take the funds away again in 2011.


“So we'll need to continue working with Congress to make sure that proposal isn't approved,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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