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leasing programs, individual leases, and demonstrations which could result in leasing. This would apply to all five resources on which we have been asked to comment. It should be borne in mind while reading the attached paper that the National Environmental Policy Act should be considered as part of the response to each question. In addition, Section 309 of the Clean Air Act provides that the Administrator is to review and comment on the environmental impact of any proposed legislation, regulations, construction project, or other major Federal action that relates to his duties and responsibilities under the Act.
WILLIAM D. RUCKELSHAUS, Administrator.
ANSWERS TO SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
Attachment A, Question 6
For each resource, what conditions regarding land reclamation, protection of other resources, or environmental quality, are currently required for exploration or energy resource production on the public lands?
Oil and Gas
Exploration for and production of oil and natural gas are carried out on Federal lands onshore and on the outer continental shelf. Offshore operations are now ongoing in the Louisiana-Texas Gulf coast area and offshore California and Alaska.
At least different environmental problems are associated with oil and gas operations. During exploration and production drilling, drilling fluids and materials brought to the surface must be disposed of such that environmental degradation does not occur. Another environmental hazard which must be considered is the possible loss of well control during drilling or workover operations, such as those that have occurred in Santa Barbara Channel in 1969 and more recently in the Gulf of Mexico.
Once a well is brought into production, the brine associated with liquid and gas hydrocarbons must be separated from the commercially valuable product and discharged after treatment. None of these problems is unique or unsolvable. The environmental damage potential inherent in these operations can be controlled within limits provided for by statute or regulation.
Statutory and regulatory
Oil and gas development that takes place within the United States and has potential for discharging into the navigable waters of the United States (to 3 miles offshore) is subject to the provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and regulations promulgated thereunder. Additionally, permits issued under provisions of sec. 13 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (the "Refuse Act") are required for point sources of discharges. Oil and gas produced from the Outer Continental Shelf under the Outer Continental Shelf Act are subject to U.S. Geological Survey regulations and operating orders.
Onshore oil and gas operations on Federal leases must be operated in compliance with approved water quality standards provided for by Sec. 10 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. This section would apply in those cases where pollution of waters endangered the health or welfare of persons in a State other than that in which the discharge or discharges originated or, with the written consent of the Governor in the State where the oil discharge originated, if the health and welfare of persons in that State are threatened.
Additionally, oil and gas operations that could discharge to the navigable waters of the United States must comply with regulations promulgated under Sec. 11, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, to provide for means of preventing discharges and mitigating the effects of any that occur.
The statutory provisions cited above are made operative by Executive Order 11507, February 5, 1970. Among its provisions is a requirement that the heads of agencies shall ensure that all facilities are designed, operated and maintained so as to conform to air and water quality standards.
The President's 1972 Environmental Program contains a bill. Title III of which is a proposed Toxic Wastes Disposal Act. This would cover a significant type of pollution not now included in water pollution control legislation, and help protect ground water. The bill would cover wastes from oil drilling and extraction, and also reinjection of wastes from geothermal operations.
Certificating and permitting responsibilities
Again, with respect to onshore and offshore facilities (within three miles of the shoreline), Section 21, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, requires that any applicant for a Federal license or permit to conduct any activity including, but not limited to, the construction or operation of facilities which may result in discharges into the navigable waters of the United States, shall provide to the licensing or permitting authority, certification from the State in which the discharge originates, that the proposed discharge will not violate applicable water quality standards. No Federal agency shall be deemed to be an applicant for such a license or permit.
Finally, proposed leasing and proposed construction of appurtenant structures on public lands are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. For further discussion of the Environmental Protection Agency's responsibilities under this Act, see answers to Questions B-6 and B-14, below.
Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas operations
These operations are specifically excepted from the regulatory provisions of Section 11, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended. They are carried out pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and regulations promulgated thereunder by the Secretary of the Interior (30 CFR, Part 250, August 22, 1969). These regulations provide that lessees shall promptly report leakage or spills to the Environmental Protection Agency, or to the United States Coast Guard through the U.S. Geological Survey regional supervisor.
Proposed construction of pipelines and associated structures over or through the public domain is reviewed by EPA primarily via the Environmental Impact Statement cited above. Pollution control aspects of those pipelines, commonly known as "gathering lines," which extend from well heads to oil separators and storage facilities used in the production of oil, come under EPA's jurisdiction through Section 11 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between EPA and the Department of Transportation (36 F.R. at 244, December 18, 1971) concerning definition of transpor tation-related and non-transportation-related facilities as used in Executive Order 11548, July 1970, the Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over any facility, unit, or process integrally associated with terminal operations.
Control of pipelines is especially important from offshore wells or those close to the water because the pipes are often laid through shallow water and wetlands. The intrusion of the pipe itself may disturb the ecology, and an oil or gas spill in these areas could cause major economic and ecological losses.
2. NUCLEAR STIMULATION
The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for reviewing and recom mending revisions of the general radiation protection guidelines which were recommended by the former Federal Radiation Council, whose functions were transferred to it by Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970. This guidance, which presently does not differentiate between different classes of activity, would be applicable to potential exposures of workers, persons in the vicinity of the exploration and recovery activities, and consumers of the oil or gas recovered. EPA also has authority derived from the Atomic Energy Commission to estab lish environmental radiation standards for AEC regulated activities.
Radiation protection guidance which EPA recommends is forwarded to the President, and upon his approval becomes guidance for all Federal agencies including the AEC and the Department of the Interior. Environmental radiation standards for AEC regulated activities can be issued by EPA directly. (EPA has no enforcement authority with respect to radiation protection guidance or standards issued under authority derived from the FRC or AEC. The AEC and Department of the Interior are the appropriate enforcement authorities with respect to guidance applicable to nuclear stimulation of oil and gas fields.)
EPA is presently considering the health implications associated with nuclear stimulation of gas. We are reviewing the need for standards to protect the public health from tritium in nuclear stimulated natural gas and from ground water contamination resulting from nuclear development of energy resources. and may establish environmental radiation standards or recommend guidance to cover these specific situations.
One of the problems EPA is looking into is assignment of responsibility for monitoring radiation levels resulting from nuclear stimulation and, if necessary, taking remedial action. This is an important question, since the radioactive materials created by the nuclear stimulation may remain in the ground for many years. The question involves determination of land and resource ownership and leasing rights and responsibilities which are not clear at this time. If further investigation of this question or others indicates that additional authority is required within the Federal Government to protect the environment, such authority will be sought at that time.
The specific effect on the level of exploration and production of oil and gas on public lands of the present FRC radiation protection guidance and the consideration being given to EPA guidance specifically applicable to nuclear stimulation of oil and gas fields is unknown at this time.
As Assistant Secretary of the Interior Harrison Loesch indicated in testimony before your Committee on June 19, 1972, approximately 8.3 million acres of the public lands are underlain with oil shale deposits thought to be of commercial potential. These public lands represent a total area larger than the State of Vermont. The U.S. Department of the Interior is currently initiating a prototype leasing program through a competitive bidding process.
In addition to the normal environmental problems associated with large-scale strip mining of any type, oil shale operations will also generate large amounts of processed shale wastes. The process of retorting oil shale creates about 25% greater volume of waste material than the volume of rock originally extracted. These wastes will have to be disposed of on the surface, possibly by mine backfilling, although as indicated above, replacement of all of the waste in the pits will not be possible. If backfilling is not undertaken, an even larger problem of spoilpile stabilization and land and water reclamation will exist. This means that a much larger land area than that directly required for mining and processing plants will be impacted by oil shale development. Reclamation of this land and its natural drainages will be essential.
The Environmental Protection Agency is highly concerned about the environmental impact of oil shale development through strip mining or other techniques. We have worked with the Department of the Interior in an attempt to formulate the necessary measures and stipulations to avoid irreversible environmental damage.
The principal Environmental Protection Agency authorities which would apply to oil shale development are those contained in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, principally those in Section 10. The Clean Air Act may also apply in certain situations.
EPA has provided guidance for radon daughter exposure limits in uranium mines, under the authorities acquired with the transfer of Federal Radiation Council functions. This guidance applies to uranium mining on public and private lands. Implementation and enforcement of the EPA guidance are within the authority of the Department of the Interior. There is insufficient experience with implementation of that guidance to permit determination at this time as to whether or not additional authority is required. Although concern has been expressed that EPA's uranium mining radiation protection guidance would have an adverse effect on the production of uranium, no evidence has been brought to our attention which supports this concern.
It may prove desirable that the Federal Government have authority to regulate the use and disposal of uranium mill tailings. As a result of inadequate regulation in the past, these tailings have been used as fill and construction material in and around many structures, including residences, in several Western States. The tailings contain levels of radioactivity that increase the health risks of persons within the structures where they are used. Efforts are being made at the State level to regulate the disposal and use of such material. If such efforts are successful, additional authority within the Federal Government would be unnecessary. Coal
The mining of coal, through both surface and underground techniques, has created some of the most serious and lasting adverse environmental effects in the Nation. Among these are sedimentation, land slides, erosion, subsidence,
surface scars, fires, and stream pollution by acid and mineralized drainage. The occurrence and extent of these effects depend on such factors as the method of extraction, physical and chemical geologic setting, topography, and climate. Unlike most industrial side effects, those from coal mining often appear as ancillary resource damages after cessation of mining.
Millions of dollars in property damage have occurred through coal mining, and the threat of subsidence or cave-ins exists in more than 250 communities throughout 28 States. Uncontrolled mine and refuse bank fires have resulted in the death of 50 people and the destruction of property valued at more than 2 billion dollars. Eighteen thousand miles of streams have been either intermittently or permanently damaged. Several million acres of deteriorating mined lands contribute to land and water pollution and aesthetic degradation.
The physical potential for increasing the legacy of these problems is evident when one considers that proven remaining recoverable reserves of coal in the United States are estimated at 380 billion tons.
Many of the most significant abuses have been in the East on privately owned land. However, in search of large, low-sulfur deposits, industry is turning its eyes West. Development of giant scale stripping technology has made economic many low-grade, low-sulfur Western coal deposits that were not considered commercial a decade ago. This technology creates potential large-scale environmental problems of water pollution and erosion, and the need for reclamation. The generally semi-arid climate of many sections of the West increases the difficulties of devising and implementing sound reclamation of mined-out areas. This points out the need for Federal legislation setting guidelines for coal mining operations at an early date. Such legislation should consider the option of withholding from strip mining lands that are not susceptible to effective reclamation. It is clear that in order to provide for orderly development of coal and other resources on the public lands, it is necessary to have information about their nature and extent, so that in formulation of comprehensive land use development plans, sufficient attention will be given to the safeguarding of environmental values.
Section 10 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act is the most pertinent EPA authority here, although the Clean Air Act also applies.
The utilization of geothermal resources as a source of power has potential as a substitute for other fuel sources. Within the United States, present installed geothermal power plants have a capacity of 193 megawatts; and additional 318 megawatts capacity is either in the design stage or under construction. In addition to the commitment of extensive land areas required by the increase in capacity, principal environmental aspects of concern are: disposal of the geothermal brines, noise associated with production operation, non-condensible gases in the geothermal fluids, disposal of waste heat, and seismic hazards and land subsidence.
Any sizeable geothermal resource development requires the commitment of large acreages, needed mostly for the proper placement of geothermal wells. As an example, the land needed to develop a geothermal well field adequate to supply a 1,000 megawatt power plant amounts to about 10 square miles. The attendant problems during site exploration and development, production operations, and production cessation require careful consideration of the best and proper use of the land resource.
Geothermal fluids are concentrated saline fluids and pose a threat to surface and ground water quality unles adequate handling and disposal precautions are taken. Specific substances in the fluids such as hydrogen sulfide, boron, mercury, and radon and its decay products, require special attention when present in significant concentrations.
Geothermal wells can be the source of objectionable noise which may require noise abatement techniques. Any large-scale geothermal resource development must consider noise as a potential adverse environmental impact. The withdrawal and the reinjection of geothermal fluids also have the potential for cans ing seismic activity as well as land movement, particularly subsidence. These phenomena require special consideration because of their serious, irreversible manifestations.
With expanded interest in developing geothermal resources, the environmental risks need to be evaluated during all phases of the operations and prior to the
initiation of a large-scale industry. In the initial phases of geothermal resource development, it appears that existing regulatory authority, combined with the authority to be exercised by the resource-managing agency, will be adequate to deal with the issue. Further experience with the technology will be needed to know whether additional authority would be required for adequate regulation.
Attachment B, Question 6
What discretionary authority, if any, has the Department of the Interior to lease or not to lease, or otherwise to open or close lands to development of each resource?
The conditions to which the Department of the Interior and its contractors should adhere in leasing and disposal activities, so far as the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned, are set out in the laws and regulations discussed above. These considerations enter two phases of leasing and disposal activities before the Federal or federally-sponsored activity is undertaken, and while it is being conducted.
The former enters Environmental Protection Agency review of environmental impact statements prepared by the Department of the Interior as required by Section 102 of the National Environmental Policy Act. The Agency receives drafts of such statements from the Department of the Interior in many energyrelated areas, which include leasing and disposal of resources as well as production of energy.
We have at that time an opportunity to comment on the effects of proposed major Federal actions. In numerous cases involving energy, we have pointed out to the Department of the Interior or other agencies possible detrimental effects on the environment and/or violations of laws or regulations administered by the Environmental Protection Agency which the proposed action could cause.
We have found that the Department has considered second- and third- as well as first-order effects of their actions and alternatives, taken a closer and harder look at proposed actions, and in some cases revised the draft statements in light of EPA comments.
EPA is currently in the process of studying, through its Energy Policy Committee, thirty inter-related issues in the energy-environmental area. Though these and other related investigations have not been completed, we believe that certain EPA laws and regulations, primarily in the air quality field, may have a considerable impact on leasing of some energy resources.
Once leasing has been concluded, subsequent production activities are subject to the laws and regulations set out in the cover letter and in the answer to question A-6.
Attachment B, Question 13
For each resource, what conditions regarding protection of other resources, land reclamation, or environmental quality, are currently required for permissive exploration or in a lease or sale contract, permit, claim or patent?
The authorities which the Environmental Protection Agency has in this regard are detailed for the most part in the response to Question A-6, above.
With respect to both onshore and offshore oil and gas facilities, the conditions outlined under "Certificating and Permitting Responsibilities," on page 2, above, apply.
Although the Clean Air Act does not contain a provision analogous to Section 21 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, it does require the States to have authority to prevent the construction of any source, which would violate ambient air quality standards and, under the New Source Performance Section of the Act, Federal restrictions on emissions from certain industry categories.
Through the environmental impact statement review process and other consultations carried out pursuant to Section 102 of NEPA, EPA has an opportunity to point out environmental problems which may result from energy resource development and possible solution to these problems.
Attachment B, Question 14
Describe the existing procedure for complying with Section 102 of the National Environmental Policy Act with respect to leasing or disposition of each energy resource.