Writing an EIS for an Emerging Technology: DOE's Coal Liquifaction Projects

by Steven G. DeCicco, Research Staff Member; Energy Division, Oak Ridge Nat. Lab., P.O. Box X, Oak Ridge, Tenn. 37830,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1982, Vol. 52, Issue 9, Pg. 57-61

Document Type: Feature article


The emerging coal-derived synthetic fuel industry may be unique in that it has received public review of potential environmental effects before the first commercial scale plant is built. The Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Impact Statements established important precedents for the synfuel industry. An environmentally aware public wanted detailed analyses of a technology that had never been demonstrated on a commercial scale, of a plant that had not been fully designed, of health and environmental effects that were not completely understood, and of environmental regulations whose applicability were undefined. A strategy for dealing with technical uncertainty in an emerging technology was developed. The public had a definite influence on every aspect of these projects, from DOE policy to plant design. This early input should help facilitate development of the synfueld industry and enhance its benefit to society.

Subject Headings: Environmental issues | Writing skills | Public health and safety | Industrial facilities | Coal | Industries | Public participation | Sustainable development

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