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In the Heat of the Law, It's Not Just Steam: Geothermal Resources and the Impacts on Thermophile Biodiversity

38 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2006 Last revised: 27 Aug 2013

Donald J. Kochan

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Tiffany Grant

EnviroBusiness Consulting


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.

Keywords: Environmental Law, Geothermal, Thermophile, Biodiversity, Natural Resources, California, Administrative Law, Public Lands

JEL Classification: D23, K11, K20, K32, K23, N50, O10

Suggested Citation

Kochan, Donald J. and Grant, Tiffany, In the Heat of the Law, It's Not Just Steam: Geothermal Resources and the Impacts on Thermophile Biodiversity. Hastings West-North West Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 2007; Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 08-18. Available at SSRN:

Donald J. Kochan (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2618 (Phone)
714-628-2576 (Fax)

Tiffany Grant

EnviroBusiness Consulting

Burlington, MA
United States

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