Effects of Energy Development in the Rocky Mountain Area (EERMA)

Research Project: 


Project Manager: 

Natasha Carr

Increased demand for energy is driving rapid development of oil and gas (including shale gas and coal-bed methane), uranium, geothermal, wind, and solar sources of energy throughout the western United States. Much of the development is occurring on public lands, including those under Federal and State jurisdictions. In Colorado and New Mexico, these public lands make up about 40 percent of the land area. Both of these states benefit from revenues generated by energy development, but resource managers and other decisionmakers must balance the benefits with their potential effects on historic, scenic, recreational, and ecological resources. Although past studies have assessed some effects of energy development, the information has not yet been synthesized to make it useful to decisionmakers and resource managers.

To address this need, an interdisciplinary team of USGS scientists is developing a multi-step analytical process, or framework, for estimating the outcomes and cumulative impacts of energy development in Colorado and New Mexico. The science team includes Tasha Carr of FORT, Jay Diffendorfer of the Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center, Natalie Latysh in Core Science Systems, Ken Leib of the Colorado Water Science Center, Anne-Marie Matherne of the New Mexico Water Science Center, and Sarah Hawkins with the Central Energy Resources Science Center. Their work entails (1) assessing agency information needs; (2) compiling information from USGS assessments of non-renewable energy resources as a basis for estimating potential development of energy resources; and (3) assimilating baseline data on current energy development—both renewable and non-renewable—for projecting characteristic “footprints” and life-cycle for each energy type to similar areas with the potential for energy development. All the spatial information will be made available to end users in the form of an online, interactive energy atlas. Combined, the framework, analytical tools, and energy atlas will be valuable to decisionmakers and resource managers in their endeavors to anticipate energy development scenarios in Colorado and New Mexico, evaluate the associated consequences, and develop appropriate mitigation strategies.