Sustainable Development:Producing Energy while Maintaining Ecosystems
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From the time we wake up - to the time we set the alarm clock for the next morning – we consume energy. Energy is produced from coal, oil, natural gas, uranium and renewable resources. It is transported by oil tanker, railcar, pipeline, and overhead power. Impacts on environmental systems from energy development, production, and transportation are additive (i.e. the impact from an area of extraction is added to the impact of transportation which is added from one area to the next). The only way to deduct impacts is through effective reclamation and eventual ecosystem restoration. Twelve thousand new oil and gas wells have been permitted on federally managed minerals in Wyoming’ Powder River Basin, since the last environmental impact statement in 2003. These 1,700 oil and gas wells per year plus associated pipelines, power lines and roads have been added to existing disturbance of oil well pads, coal and uranium mines. This is added to residential, recreational and industrial activities in the Powder River Basin. Energy projects proceed through four common phases of development: planning, construction, monitoring, and adaptive management. These four phases are analyzed to identify which phase is most important to reclamation success; how actions in phases might be improved; and how improvements in phases could be coordinated so that overall reclamation success may be enhanced. Results reveal - the most critical phases of energy development are planning and construction. To improve coordination between phases - monitoring and adaptive management must be improved. In order to improve each phase of development - areas of uncertainty need clarification. Four main areas of uncertainty were identified during the study; they lead to four recommendations of action. 1) Define to what stage an ecosystem will be reclaimed or restored. 2) Define suitable soil for reclamation, its depth and methods used to ensure it is salvaged for reclamation. 3) Establish timing and methods of measurement for monitoring. 4) Develop adaptive management strategies to incorporate results of monitoring. By incorporating these four actions and implementing clearly defined reclamation goals, objectives, and standards functioning ecosystems can be maintained during the life of energy development.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
oil and gas
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