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A framework for quantitative assessment of impacts related to energy and mineral resource development

January 15, 2013

Natural resource planning at all scales demands methods for assessing the impacts of resource development and use, and in particular it requires standardized methods that yield robust and unbiased results. Building from existing probabilistic methods for assessing the volumes of energy and mineral resources, we provide an algorithm for consistent, reproducible, quantitative assessment of resource development impacts. The approach combines probabilistic input data with Monte Carlo statistical methods to determine probabilistic outputs that convey the uncertainties inherent in the data. For example, one can utilize our algorithm to combine data from a natural gas resource assessment with maps of sage grouse leks and piñon-juniper woodlands in the same area to estimate possible future habitat impacts due to possible future gas development. As another example: one could combine geochemical data and maps of lynx habitat with data from a mineral deposit assessment in the same area to determine possible future mining impacts on water resources and lynx habitat. The approach can be applied to a broad range of positive and negative resource development impacts, such as water quantity or quality, economic benefits, or air quality, limited only by the availability of necessary input data and quantified relationships among geologic resources, development alternatives, and impacts. The framework enables quantitative evaluation of the trade-offs inherent in resource management decision-making, including cumulative impacts, to address societal concerns and policy aspects of resource development.