Thursday, January 6, 2011

Geologists Entering New Legal Territory?

Stephen Testa writes in Earth Magazine of some recent legal problems for geologists.

We live in a litigious society. Engineering and environmental geologists are no strangers to the legal system. They frequently deal with issues relating to geologic hazards such as active faults and unstable ground, the release of contaminants into the environment and numerous other circumstances. But for the most part, geoscientists tend to avoid legal battles. Is that changing?

In the last couple of years, several events have brought geologists into new legal territory. Geologists have recently been accused of potentially inducing earthquakes, of not predicting natural hazards, of potentially adversely impacting water quality, of spying and of engaging in indelicate e-mail discussions and alleged misdealings with climate change data.

Getting into trouble over "risk management" was something one would associate with dodgy Wall Street high fliers. Now the term seems to be encompassing the grinding of tectonic plates and the health of ecosystems as well with accountability spilling over towards the custodians of scientific data.. geologists are among those on the frontlines of this emerging engagement with society as responsible analyzers of risk.

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