In the Heat of the Law, It's Not Just Steam: Geothermal Resources and the Impacts on Thermophile Biodiversity
Donald J. Kochan
Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law
Hastings West-North West Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 2007
Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 08-18
Significant research has been conducted into the utilization of geothermal resources as a green energy source. However, minimal research has been conducted into geothermal resource utilization and depletion impacts on thermophile biodiversity. Thermophiles are organisms which have adapted over millions of year to extreme temperature and chemical compositions and exist in hot springs and other geothermal resources. Their ability to withstand high temperatures makes them invaluable to scientific and medical research. Current federal and California case law classify geothermal resources as a mineral, not a water resource. Acquisition of rights to develop a geothermal resource owned or reserved by the federal government is authorized by the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 which was designed to promote utilization of geothermal resources. Similarly, current California law promotes the utilization of geothermal resources. While NEPA and CEQA apply in federal and state geothermal resource development respectively, thermophile biodiversity is significantly threatened due to a lack of knowledge and classification of thermophile species. California law under the Public Resources Code provides for the prevention of damage to geothermal deposits, reservoirs and water, but not for the species that live in them. This article will show that current federal and state law applicable to California promotes the over utilization of geothermal resources which threatens thermophile biodiversity.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: Environmental Law, Geothermal, Thermophile, Biodiversity, Natural Resources, California, Administrative Law, Public Lands
JEL Classification: D23, K11, K20, K32, K23, N50, O10
Date posted: June 21, 2006 ; Last revised: August 27, 2013
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