Geology and Public Policy – Recent Issues in Virginia
David B. Spears, State Geologist
Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
Government decision makers are faced with difficult choices when it comes to public policy regarding energy and mineral resources. Our nation is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, radioactive isotopes, and rare earth elements that often must be imported from foreign countries to meet U.S. demand. Even though developing our own domestic supplies has obvious strategic advantages, such development often conflicts with other societal priorities such as environmental protection and social justice. To further complicate matters, conflicting pressure is brought to bear on policy makers by an uninformed or misinformed populace that is generally anti-development, and by pro-development businesses who have a financial interest in resource development. In this presentation, Virginia’s State Geologist will use recent, Virginia-specific examples such as uranium mining, offshore drilling, and shale gas to highlight the ways in which government-based geoscientists play a unique role in providing scientific guidance in public debates about how to best manage our nation’s energy and mineral resources.
David Spears is the State Geologist of Virginia, a position residing in the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. He is responsible for coordinating the work of the Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, a small group of geoscientists focused on mapping Virginia’s geology, mineral resources, energy resources, and geologic hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes. In recent years, the State Geologist has played an increasing role in responding to public policy issues such as offshore drilling, natural hazards, and hydraulic fracturing. David received a B.S. in Geology from Lafayette College and a M.S. in Geology from Virginia Tech. He began his professional career in the petroleum industry before coming to Virginia state government in 1993. A native of New Jersey, he currently resides in Buckingham County in central Virginia. In 2012, David received the Bradley Prize from the Geological Society of Washington for his presentation about geology and public policy.