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Feds Add Geothermal Drilling Rules to Protect Against Earthquakes

geyserCiting concerns about the risk of earthquakes and other seismic activity, the Department of Energy is adding safeguards on larger geothermal drilling projects, reports the New York Times.

New standards require that projects continually monitor ground-motion sensors and have approved a plan to shut down drilling operations in the event of earthquakes over a certain size induced by the drilling. Drilling plans now also must be submitted to third parties for risk assessments.

The moves come after a California project from AltaRock Energy ran into technical problems and community backlash.

At a project near a spot known as the Geysers, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, AltaRock experienced drilling problems, at the same time as scientists and local activists accused the company about not being forthcoming about earthquake risks from the project.

The project has spent through $6 million in federal financing provided to help drill to the necessary depth, with no luck. As such, the Energy Department considers the project to be “concluded,” according to NYT.

AltaRock reportedly has removed its drilling rig from the site, but refuses to comment about the issue.

In a just-unearthed September document, the DOE found that the AltaRock project could have set off earthquakes. However, those quakes would not have a “significant impact,” reports NYT.

But the DOE has not given up on geothermal drilling or AltaRock. The firm received $25 million to drill a similar project near Bend, Ore.

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