Balancing energy and the environment : the case of geothermal development

by Phyllis L. Ellickson, S. T. Brewer, Kathleen Knight

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This study asks what the Department of Energy's role might be in resolving environmental issues that arise during the implementation of energy projects--a time when the most serious environmental objections often surface and when many federal programs encounter difficulty. Options for federal involvement range from indirect to direct on the following scale: no role, disseminating information, providing funds, facilitating cooperative endeavors, conducting studies, and mediating disputes. Direct involvement faces two major constraints: the need to understand the local context and the need to adapt to changing conditions and practices over time. This analysis of the steam resource development at the Geysers (Lake and Sonoma counties) in northern California and the wet brine development at the Imperial Valley in Southern California suggests that direct federal involvement is unlikely to facilitate a successful resolution of issues in the absence of local demand for federal action.

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