The waste of geothermal resources in the state is prohibited.
(a) The commissioner shall require the filing and approval of a plan of development and operation on each producing geothermal system and may issue well-spacing and pooling orders, limits on production, and reinjection requirements, in order to prevent waste, promote maximum economic recovery, and protect correlative rights.
(b) Lessees of all or part of a geothermal system may enter into a unit agreement for cooperative development, with the approval of the commissioner. The commissioner may suspend or modify the approved development plan in accordance with the unit agreement.
(c) If the owners of at least two-thirds of the leasehold interests in a geothermal system ratify a unit agreement approved by the commissioner, the commissioner may enforce the agreement as to lessees not a party to the agreement by allocating production under the principle of correlative rights and by apportioning costs and revenues.
(d) Lease operations under an approved development plan or unit agreement are considered to be in compliance with individual lease requirements.
(a) The commissioner has jurisdiction over all persons and property, public and private, necessary to carry out the purposes and intent of this chapter.
(b) The authority of the commissioner applies to all private, municipal, state, and federal land in the state lawfully subject to the police power of the state. When any of that land is committed to a unit agreement involving land subject to federal jurisdiction, the operation of this chapter or a part of this chapter may be suspended, if the unit operations are regulated by the United States and if the conservation of geothermal resources is accomplished under the unit agreement.
(c) The provisions of this chapter apply
(1) when a person engaged in drilling activity not subject to the provisions of this chapter encounters geothermal fluid or water of sufficient heat or pressure to constitute a threat to human life or health, unless the drilling operation is subject to oil and gas drilling regulation under AS 31.05;
(2) in areas and under conditions in which the commissioner determines that drilling activity may encounter geothermal fluid or water of sufficient heat or pressure to constitute a threat to human life or health.
(a) An operator shall, before drilling or constructing a geothermal well or group of wells to be operated in concert, file an application with the commissioner for approval to drill the well or wells. The date of filing of the application establishes priority as to later appropriators of nongeothermal fluids. The application must contain sufficient information to enable the commissioner to determine whether the operation of the well or wells will interfere with or impair a prior water right.
(b) An operator may not begin well drilling or construction without the approval of the commissioner. The commissioner shall approve the well construction upon the conditions necessary to protect the public interest, if
(1) the proposed geothermal operation will not significantly interfere with or substantially impair a prior water right;
(2) the geothermal owner has acquired through purchase or condemnation adequate water rights to offset the potential interference or impairment; or
(3) the geothermal owner has obtained and dedicated to the affected party or parties an equivalent amount of replacement water of comparable quality.
(c) Geothermal fluid is not subject to appropriation under AS 46.15 and priority may not be established among geothermal owners in a geothermal system.
(a) The commissioner shall adopt regulations in accordance with AS 44.62 (Administrative Procedure Act) relating to the siting, spacing, drilling, casing, cementing, testing, logging, operating, producing, and abandonment of geothermal wells so as to prevent
(1) geothermal resources, water or other fluids, and gases from escaping into strata other than that in which they are found, unless in accordance with an approved reinjection program;
(2) contamination of surface and groundwater;
(3) premature degradation of a geothermal system by water encroachment or otherwise;
(4) blowouts, cavings, and seepage; and
(5) unreasonable disturbance or injury to neighboring properties, prior water rights, human life, health, and the natural environment.
(b) The commissioner shall cause the operator of a geothermal well or wells to file adequate individual or blanket surety bonds to ensure compliance with regulations adopted under this section.
(c) The commissioner shall require a geothermal operator to notify the department if the operator discovers significant quantities of hydrocarbon substances, helium, or fissionable materials.
(d) The commissioner may enter upon any property, public or private, to inspect a geothermal operation for compliance with regulations adopted under this section.
(e) Geothermal fluid and water of sufficient heat or pressure to constitute a threat to human life or health that are regulated by the commissioner under this chapter are exempt from the jurisdiction of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission under AS 31.05.030 (g).
In this chapter
(1) 'correlative rights' means the right of each geothermal owner in a geothermal system to produce without waste a just and equitable share of the geothermal resources in the geothermal system;
(2) 'geothermal fluid' means liquids and steam at temperatures greater than 120 degrees Celsius naturally present in a geothermal system;
(3) 'geothermal resources' means the natural heat of the earth at temperatures greater than 120 degrees Celsius, measured at the point where the highest-temperature resources encountered enter or contact a well or other resource extraction device, and includes
(A) the energy, including pressure, in whatever form present in, resulting from, created by, or that may be extracted from that natural heat;
(B) the material medium, including the geothermal fluid naturally present, as well as substances artificially introduced to serve as a heat transfer medium; and
(C) all dissolved or entrained minerals and gases that may be obtained from the material medium, but excluding hydrocarbon substances and helium;
(4) 'geothermal system' means a stratum, pool, reservoir, or other geologic formation containing geothermal resources;
(5) 'operator' means a person drilling, maintaining, operating, producing, or in control of a well;
(6) 'owner' means a person who, by reason of an interest in real property, has the right to drill into, produce, and make use of geothermal resources;
(7) 'waste' means an inefficient, excessive, or improper production, use, or dissipation of geothermal resources, including, but not limited to,
(A) drilling, transporting, or storage methods that cause or tend to cause unnecessary surface loss of geothermal resources;
(B) locating, spacing, drilling, equipping, operating, producing, or venting of a well in a manner that results or tends to result in reducing the ultimate economic recovery of geothermal resources;
(8) 'well' means a well drilled, converted, or reactivated for the discovery, testing, production, or subsurface injection of geothermal resources.