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Mr. Smith is president of the National Parks & Conservation Association and chairman of the Environmental Coalition for North America.
Mr. Smith, I would appreciate it if you could give me your position in summary form. Then we will accept for the record your complete statement. I see you have some exhibits here that will be put in the record.
If you could just tell me your position by making a general statement it would be best.
STATEMENT OF WAYNE SMITH, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARKS
& CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION, AND CHAIRMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL COALITION FOR NORTH AMERICA
Mr. SMITH, I would be glad to do that.
This little statement of mine is probably a briefer thing than I could talk to.
Mr. HASKELL. Then go ahead with your statement.
Mr. SMITH. First, as a matter of identification, the National Parks & Conservation Association is one of the leading organizations. We have a membership of about 50,000.
We publish National Parks & Conservation Magazine monthly which goes to all our members.
While we base ourselves on interest in the national parks system, we extend that interest to all environmental and conservation questions.
The Environmental Coalition for North America was organized to propose a trans-Alaska pipeline as its first issue. It was involved in quite a number of other issues such as the effort to change the location of the big jet port in Florida, which was successful, toether with other people and it is composed of individuals associated with a very large number of the environmental organizations of the United States and labor and farm organizations, including the United Automobile Workers of America, United Steel Workers of America. So the people in the coalition are associated with economic and environmental organizations with at least 3 million members. It is pretty well organized.
We greatly appreciate the official invitation from this committee to testify in these proceedings and hope to be helpful.
We recommend against legislation empowering the Secretary of the Interior to grant broader rights-of-way for pipeline purposes than presently authorized by the Mineral Leasing Act, unless an exception be included with respect to rights-of-way from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, until Congress itself has inquired into and decided upon the merits of the various routes which have been proposed.
The committee has indicated that it does not wish at this time to consider the merits of the question of the best route for getting oil out of Prudhoe Bay. But as a matter of fact a blanket authorization to the Secretary of the Interior will prejudge these issues; the question of the best route will be moot before Congress can consider it.
It is clear that as soon as authority is given to grant a broad rightof-way, the grant will be made. The courts will still have the issue be
.fore them as to the adequacy of the environmental impact statement, but presumably will not consider the merits of the statement as distinguished from its adequacy.
Congress will have denied itself of any opportunity to look into the merits.
We wish to respect the limitations the committee has placed on the subject matter of these hearings. But because a decision on the legislation under consideration here will in fact determine the outcome on the merits, we respectfully request the indulgence of the committee while we offer a few brief comments.
The question of the route should be decided by Congress, because the route favored by the Secretary of the Interior is objectionable for the following reasons:
1. It cuts through too much permafrost, with well-known risks.
2. It cuts across the caribou migrations on the North Slope, with possible serious ecological consequences.
It must traverse the rugged Brooks Range, involving engineering risks and broad rights-of-way.
4. It cuts across the Alaska Range with great earthquake hazards.
5. It entails unavoidable pollution of a serious nature on Prince William Sound by reason of loading onto tankers.
6. It involves great navigation risks through dangerous waters and possibly serious pollution along almost the entire west coast of the North American Continent.
A route coming down the Alcan Highway would avoid the Alaska Range, Prince Willian Sound, and tanker shipments, eliminating a significant segment of the hazards.
A route southeast to the MacKenzie River, to Edmonton, and to Seattle and Chicago would in addition eliminate most of the permafrost, caribou, and Brooks Range problems.
It would also have the distinct advantage of providing for a common corridor for gas and oil.
What we are saying is that Congress itself should make the decision with respect to the pipeline route after a speedy but thorough investigation of the alternatives to Valdez.
Congress should not relinquish the authority to make this decision by authorizing a broad right-of-way at this time for the Valdez route as a consequence of a general grant of authority to the Department of Interior to grant wider rights-of-way.
Incidentally, some of us are still not satisfied as to the question whether oil coming through Valdez will go to Japan. This committee might wish to look into that question before it gives blanket authorization to the Secretary of the Interior to widen the Valdez right-of-way.
If any of the oil is going to Japan, the argument about the fuel crisis in the lower States becomes rather transparent.
We are not saying that Prudhoe Bay ought not to be tapped.
We are not saying that there is no fuel problem in the lower States, although its origins and the best means of alleviating it may be open to discussion.
But the practical situation is as follows:
A decision authorizing the construction of the Valdez line by indirection will not alleviate the present fuel shortage, if only because construction will take too long.
There will be much opposition to the Valdez route from regional, economic, and political groups, without regard to environmental factors.
The alternative routes, particularly MacKenzie, may well not meet with any significant opposition, and may indeed have support from the forces opposing the Valdez route.
Hence the Alcan or MacKenzie routes may well move much faster than Valdez.
The economic costs as between Alcan or MacKenzie on the one hand and Valdez may not be very different. Considering the environmental costs, the alternatives may well be much less expensive.
While the oil from Prudhoe may help, it will not be decisive quantitatively in solving any fuel shortage in the lower States. If more oil is needed quickly the only way to get it is to lower import barriers.
If this is done, for the present we can work without undue haste toward the development of our domestic supplies by acceptable methods.
The Environmental Coalition wrote to the President on February 26 recommending further examination of the alternative routes before pushing Valdez, copy submitted herewith.
The Secretary of the Interior announced on February 27 that the alternatives had been investigated enough and that the administration would go ahead with Valdez. In contrast this committee has indicated its interest in looking into the merits of the alternatives, and we agree with that position.
We recommend only that such inquiry into the merits by Congress not be foreclosed by a blanket authorization to the Secretary of the Interior to grant wider rights-of-way at this time.
Mr. Chairman, the situation is that if the blanket legislation is passed, the right-of-way can be wider.
The proponents of the pipeline will apply for a new permit. It has been made clear by the Secretary of the Interior that he will grant it for the width.
The question will still be important as to the adequacy of an environmental impact statement, but presumably not as to the merits.
So the executive branch and judicial branch will have terminated their consideration of the case and the merits will never have been considered by anyone.
What we are saying is that we would hope that Congress would keep control of the decision on the merits in this very important situation.
Your committee has indicated it wants to do this, but if you pass blanket legislation now widening the routes from Prudhoe Bay, you won't have a chance to do that.
The best you will be able to do is to be confronted by a permit issued pursuant to law, pursuant to the law you yourselves passed, and pursuant to the decision of the circuit court of appeals presumably, and there the permit will be and all you will be able to do then will be to hold hearings on whether you should revoke it.
I don't think you are going to get yourselves into a position of proposing legislation to revoke.
This thing is operating at the moment now as a stay. You have a stay on construction of the Prudhoe Bay pipelines, whichever ones may be the right ones to follow.
You can hold it there until you, this committee, and your House counterpart and Congress as a whole, has a chance to look at the merits.
If you pass blanket legislation now, none of us will have a chance again. We are urging you to make an exception to the Prudhoe Bay if you pass this blanket legislation.
Senator HASKELL. I understand your position, but it is my understanding of NEPA that if the Secretary doesn't take all the things he should into consideration in his impact statement, the project doesn't go forward.
If, in fact, the project is extremely detrimental to the environment, injunctions can be obtained.
It seems to me that the merits of this particular case are before the circuit court of appeals. The circuit court chose to decide the case on a technicality and I prefer to have cases decided on merits. There is no use in us arguing. That happens to be my approach and opinion to the situation.
I sympathize with your viewpoint. If I had been arguing the case, I would be making the same presentation as you are. I do really think that there are remedies, assuming the pipeline is detrimental to the environment.
It seems to me the courts have not yet made the environmental determination because they haven't had to. They went off on a technicality. I don't know why.
The litigation and the merits of your case are still in court. It is for that reason that my predilection is to broaden the pipeline rightsof-way legislation rather than hold the thing up on what I consider to be a technicality.
I am sorry to have to disagree with you, but
Mr. Smith. We are not suggesting at the moment that anything be held up in terms of this legislation in the country as a whole.
The widening of the right-of-way or discretion to widen the rightof-way with regard to general national legislation is another question.
We are just saying on the question of the pipeline coming out of Prudhoe, the issue before the court is not the merits. The issue is the adequacy of the environmental impact statement.
When they get back into court, those are two very different things. I would suggest that the staff of the committee give considerable attention to that problem.
If I were counsel for the pipelines people at this point, I would certainly argue that the courts have no jurisdiction to look into the merits.
If I were counsel for the plaintiffs here, I would argue that they did.
But there is an area in here beyond which the court is not going to go in deciding the issues for the executive branch. We don't know what that boundary line may be, but there is an area beyond which they will not go. This is your area. This is just one group of men in this country that can get into that question, and that is Congress.
All we are saying is, for goodness sakes, for your own authority and for the sake of the people of the United States who are concerned with this environmental question, let's not preclude the power of Congress itself to go into the merits of the several routes from Prudhoe. This is what we would like to have from you.
We would have to have an opportunity to testify on that and many others would, too. The present drift of things, if you pass the blanket legislation without exemptions, in our judgment-I am talking as a lawyer—it will preclude any possibility of your entering into those questions.
Senator HASKELL. I will ask the general counsel of the staff to research that question and to advise the committee on the issue that you raise.
Mr. Smith. To terminate, Mr. Chairman, we would like to put in a more lengthy memorandum on the specific business and listing some of the provisions that have been discussed this morning.
I didn't want to take the time to do that this morning.
Washington, D.O., February 26, 1973.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: The decision of the Court of Appeals in the Alaskan pipeline case affords an opportunity for your Administration to recommend a fresh program to the American people.
Your current environmental message reveals again your keen interest in the great national and international environmental issues of our times.
The pipeline case confronts all of us with the problem of supplementing available fuel supplies without grave impairment of the ecosystems of the north slope of Alaska, the coastal regions and waters around Valdez, and the biosystems of the sea and coasts of the Alaskan panhandle, western Canada, and the west coast of the lower states.
There can be little doubt that proposals to amend the Mineral Leasing Act to permit a broader right of way for a line from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez will encounter heavy resistance in Congress. This will probably mean, at the very least, a long delay in resolving these issues, and further expenses for the Alyeska consortium. Even if such amendments are enacted, the issue of the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement will still have to be determined.
Under these circumstances it would seem to be desirable for your Administration to make a renewed and much more thorough inquiry in cooperation with Canada into the ecological and economic aspects of several possible alternative routes, including the proposed route eastward from Prudhoe Bay to the MacKenzie River Basin, and thence to Edmonton, branching to Chicago and Seattle, and including the implications of a possible common corridor for oil and gas.
In varying degrees these alternatives would have the distinct advantage that they would not cross the high risk earthquake zone of the Alaska range, they would not endanger the coastal zones and waters of Alaska by the inescapable pollution attendant on reloading to tankers, and they would not run the risk of maritime tanker catastrophes wreaking great havoc on the oceans and the sea coasts along the Alaskan panhandle, western Canada, and the west coast of the lower 48 states. The route eastward from Prudhoe Bay to MacKenzie Basin would avoid much of the permafrost, would not cut across the caribou migrations, and would avoid the engineering hazards of the rugged Brooks Range, which entail broad rights of way.
There will quite certainly be very strong opposition from environmentalists to the widening of the right of way for the Valdez route. There might be considerable support, both regional and from the environmental organizations, for