Balancing Socioeconomic and Environmental Risks and Benefits under Multiple Stressor Conditions
U.S. national energy policy calls for increasing natural gas production in order to increase environmental security, provide energy security, and increase national security by reducing dependence on imported energy. One of the major sources of natural gas production in the U.S. is the coalbed methane (CBM) gas development project in the Powder River Basin. However, this project is highly controversial and is considered one of the greatest environmental threats to Wyoming. The threat is caused by a large variety of chemical and non-chemical Stressors, including physical Stressors such as excavation, increased water volume, wind and water erosion, noise, dust, road construction, and increased traffic.
This paper presents a model for multiple Stressor analysis of the ecosystem and the derived human values. The objective is to recommend an optimal management policy that maximizes economic profits while minimizing social costs and environmental damage. The adverse effects of the physical and chemical Stressors in the Powder River Basin project are assessed under different feasible management alternatives for each of the 18 sub-watersheds involved in the project. The social, economic and environmental impacts on sustainable development are incorporated into a single score model using the economic valuation approach, which assigns a monetary value to environmental damage in order to compare different types of impacts.
The cost-benefit analysis shows that for the project as a whole, the total benefits are lower than the value of the environmental damage. However, an examination by area shows that for some sub-watersheds, the benefits outweigh the costs. Management alternatives that involve improved water treatment methods cost more than the value of their environmental benefits. The recommendation is to continue the project only in those sub-watersheds where the benefits outweigh the environmental costs, while maintaining the current water treatment methods.
KeywordsCoalbed Methane Economic Valuation Economic Profit Environmental Impact Statement Company Profit
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