Oil Reserve:

Impact of NPR-1 Operations on Wildlife and Water Is Uncertain

RCED-91-129: Published: Aug 1, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 11, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the basis for the disagreements between the Department of Energy (DOE) and its Argonne National Laboratory relating to Argonne's development of a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 1 (NPR-1), focusing on: (1) the DOE Naval Petroleum Reserves-California (NPRC) and Argonne positions on NPR-1 impacts on endangered species and groundwater quality and how SEIS would discuss those uncertainties; and (2) NPR-1 compliance with environmental laws and regulations governing endangered species, wastewater disposal, and historic preservation activities.

GAO found that: (1) between 1981 and 1989, the number of foxes living free within the NPR-1 study area decreased from 164 to between 44 and 58; (2) Argonne concluded in a SEIS draft that NPR-1 operations could have contributed to the decline of foxes in that area; (3) NPRC and Argonne staffs disagreed about how SEIS should describe the effects of NPR-1 operations on endangered foxes and nearby groundwater, primarily due to a lack of definitive data; (4) in September 1990, NPRC notified Argonne that DOE would prepare final SEIS, but it was unclear to what extent DOE would use Argonne's data and views; (5) DOE and others were conducting research that could provide additional data on factors affecting the fox population and wastewater migration; (6) DOE has not ensured that NPR-1 operations comply with the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act's regulations; (7) Argonne concluded in a June 1990 SEIS draft that NPR-1 operations violated California wastewater disposal requirements for sumping, but DOE believed that NPR-1 had not violated the requirements, and the state had not made a determination on that issue; (8) factors contributing to the noncompliance included NPRC officials' lack of knowledge regarding environmental requirements, noncoordination with federal and state agencies having environmental responsibilities, and mismanagement, which could result in legal action, fines, or a temporary shutdown; and (9) NPRC is taking action to address the problems, but unless DOE improves its management controls, similar problems may continue to exist.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has an approved implementation plan designed to carry out the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve compliance at NPR-1 with environmental requirements, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves to keep abreast of environmental requirements affecting NPR-1 operations by periodically reviewing pertinent environmental laws and regulations and coordinating with officials of cognizant state and federal agencies to ensure that both DOE and contractor staff comply with those requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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