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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
Energy Resources Assessments & Monitoring Laws & Regulations
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Site Characterization Requirements and Activities

Site characterization or exploration activities generally have relatively minor environmental impacts, but consideration of their impacts is an important part of any impact assessment.

Many energy projects require initial activities to determine the availability of the energy resource and the suitability of the site for development from engineering and environmental standpoints.

Typical site characterization and exploration activities involve placement of measuring equipment (e.g., meteorological towers, solar insolation meters, flow meters), boreholes, monitoring wells, soils testing (for engineering), and seismic survey lines. The amount of land disturbance, length of activities, number of people involved, and seasonal pattern of activities all affect the level of disturbance and should be described.

Ecological, cultural, paleontology, and visual resource surveys may also be required during this phase to ensure that protected resources are identified and avoided during subsequent project development phases.

The impacts of these activities must be considered and often require separate environmental review (e.g., an environmental assessment [EA]) and permitting. Some site characterization activities have minimal impact and can be categorically excluded form further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluation because of their minimal impact. Site characterization impacts are frequently overlooked in impact assessments.