WASHINGTON -

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on Thursday applauded the Senate’s passage of their legislation to encourage more geothermal energy production on federal lands.

The Geothermal Production Expansion Act of 2013, S. 363, streamlines the federal geothermal leasing program to encourage development of geothermal power by making adjacent development rights available at fair market rates.

“This bill promotes clean energy development while protecting taxpayers,” Wyden said. “I encourage my colleagues on the House side to pass this bill so geothermal developers can get development rights at fair market value without having to wait for lease nominations or speculators driving up the price of leases.”

“Geothermal energy is a reliable and renewable source of energy that has the potential to help move us to a cleaner energy future,” Merkley said. “We should be doing everything we can to boost production of innovative, affordable, and renewable domestic energy sources. I urge my House colleagues to take up and pass this bill.”

The Bureau of Land Management manages geothermal projects on federal land under lease agreements and currently can lease about 250 million acres of federal land that contains geothermal power potential.

Geothermal energy projects that are producing geothermal power under the BLM’s management currently make up about half of the total geothermal generating capacity in the United States.

Oregon has the potential to produce at least 1,100 megawatts from geothermal resources – enough energy to power nearly a million homes.

The Senate passed the bill by a unanimous consent agreement late Wednesday night. Wyden and Merkley introduced the bill early last year, along with four bipartisan cosponsors.