« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
Mr. DE LUGO. Thank you very much, Director Scully.
And our next witness will be Dr. Peter Wilkniss, Director of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation.
Mr. WILKNISS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to present to your committee the views of the National Science Foundation on H.R. 4514, the Antarctic World Park and Protection Act of 1990. A Presidential directive designates the Foundation as the manager, including responsibility for budgeting, of the entire U.S. Antarctic Program. Policy guidance is provided by the Antarctic Policy Group that's chaired by the Department of State and has as members the Department of Defense, NSF and other departments and agencies.
Also, other departments, in particular DOD, render major logistics support on a reimbursable basis to NSF, and other departments and agencies carry out directed research in the Antarcticfor instance, the Department of Commerce through NOAA.
The overall objective of the U.S. Antarctic Program is to support the Antarctic Treaty system. Therefore, the President has directed that we maintain an active and influential role on the continent and in the surrounding oceans. The major expression of U.S. national interest in the Antarctic has been and will be, for the foreseeable future, a vigorous program of basic research in all disciplines. This is mostly carried out by scientists from our universities and colleges. Cooperation with their colleagues in the scientific community and in the other Antarctic Treaty nations is an important component of this effort.
The Antarctic used to be a preserve for a small scientific community dedicated to understanding the properties of this isolated area at the bottom of the world. Now, worldwide attention is focusing on the Antarctic because of its vital role in understanding global processes and mankind's influence thereon.
Examples are the Antarctic ozone hole, the information obtained on past climates from long ice cores extracted from the Antarctic, and the question of the stability of the huge Antarctic ice sheet.
There's also increasing attention worldwide to developing commercial activities in Antarctica such as fisheries and, foremost, tourism. The question of potential mineral resources and their future disposition has been added to these commercial issues.
In this commercial context we see, with great concern, a number of bills, including H.R. 4514, that would severely constrain, if not suspend, research of the greatest societal importance. Therefore, we urge your thorough consideration of the following:
The freedom of scientific research in the Antarctic needs to be maintained. Necessary research support activities should not be overregulated. And, finally, and most importantly, we believe that legislative authority exists and that practical programs with funding from the Congress are already in place, to remedy past shortcomings. One point in particular is the Presidential initiative that the Congress is funding that provides the Antarctic program with $180 million over a 5-year period to remedy past shortcomings. The environmental area alone is to receive $30 million.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'll be pleased to respond to your questions.
Prepared statement of Mr. Wilkniss follows:
STATEMENT OF DR. PETER WILKNISS
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to discuss with thiscommittee the impact of the U.S. Antarctic Program on the Antarctic environment, the adequacy of existing programs and laws to protect that environment, and pending legislation before Congress. As the world becomes more and more sensitive to environmental concerns, Antarctica has taken on both symbolic and practical importance. The emerging consensus that we must act to save our planet can be attributed in part to results from several major scientific discoveries there, in particular, depletion in ozone over Antarctica, and information gained from ice core research.
Scientific research in Antarctica offers evidence of the impact mankind has had on the planet, and is testimony to the importance of environmental considerations. The National Science Foundation firmly believes that continued science in the Antarctic is crucial to our understanding of the world. We also maintain that sound environmental practices can and must reasonably and effectively coexist with a vigorous scientific research program and U.S. presence in the Antarctic.
The issue is not whether the United States Antarctic Program needs to operate in an environmentally sound manner -- we all agree on that. Our focus must be on incorporating sound environmental practices in a harsh and severe climate, while continuing the very science that helps us better understand the environment we live in.
As an initial matter, NSF acts under specific, existing legislative authority to protect the Antarctic environment. During the past five years NSF has implemented a number of programs designed to enhance U.S. environmental practices in the Antarctic. In addition, NSF issued an Environmental Protection Agenda, reviewed NSF compliance with environmental laws in Antarctica, made extensive recommendations to improve existing practices, and recently issued an ambitious and comprehensive strategy and implementation plan to remedy past mistakes and to prevent environmental harm from occurring in the future. NSF's report, entitled "A National Science Foundation Strategy for Compliance with Environmental Law," and its implementation document, are attached for the record as part of this testimony. NSF is working hard to improve its environmental practices at u.s. stations in the Antarctic. We recognize, however, that more needs to be done. NSF is committed to applying in Antarctica no less stringent environmental protection, including best management guidelines, than that afforded by U.S. environmental laws and regulatory programs. In order to achieve the environmental goals and actions outlined by NSF, we proposed -- and the Administration adopted -- a
conditions in the Antarctic. The environmental component totals $30 million over a four-year period that began in FY 1990. This initiative will fund the start-up of a cradle-to-grave waste management system for the U.S. Antarctic Program, including solid and hazardous waste handling, wastewater treatment, control of air emissions, oil spill prevention, clean up of abandoned sites, pollution control permitting, environmental assessments and impact statements, monitoring and reporting, and other matters. The United States will protect the Antarctic environment. with continued Congressional support, NSF will maintain a strong scientific presence in Antarctica, and set an international example for responsible environmental practices. We view with great concern, therefore, many pending bills in both houses of Congress which seek to accomplish these same objectives, but have the potential for slowing or adversely affecting critical science being performed on the Continent. H.R. 4514, for example, contains provisions which may cause major disruption of Antarctic science and operations, especially during the period when NSF already has begun remedying past environmental problems.
Our principal concerns are the following: (1) H.R. 4514 attempts to apply all domestic environmental and historic preservation laws to the Antarctic, without any regard to incompatible environmental requirements or other safety considerations. When read together with the citizen suit provision, the bill could severely impede U.S. operations in the Antarctic. (2) The inventory and general management plan to be prepared by the Secretary of Interior is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Antarctic Treaty, usurps the existing United States Antarctic Program, and contains costly duplication of existing legislative authority and NSF regulatory programs under the Antarctic Conservation Act. (3). The provision prohibiting mineral exploration, prospecting, or mineral development activity does not clearly delineate between bona fide scientific research and commercial ventures. Disruption of United States Antarctic Program Activities NSF has made enormous progress in improving environmental practices in the 1980s. We have consulted extensively with both the scientific and environmental communities. We have been open in taking responsibility for mistakes made in the past. previously mentioned, the Foundation has also been diligent in planning further improvements. The next four years will be critical to completing many of the planned improvements. The Antarctic Conservation Act comprehensively governs all actions by federal officials and United States citizens that have an impact upon the Antarctic environment. The Act implements the Antarctic Treaty and the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, by prohibiting the taking within Antarctica of any native mammal or bird, the collecting of any native plant within any specially protected area, the
introduction into Antarctica of any animal or plant that is not indigenous to Antarctica, the entrance into any specially protected area or site of special scientific interest, and the discharge or disposal of any pollutant within Antarctica, unless pursuant to a valid NSF-issued permit.
NSF recently determined that most of the requirements of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and RCRA, and certainly the joint federal/state permitting programs that are the heart of those statutes, do not apply to operations in Antarctica. Wholesale imposition of those laws, as contemplated by H.R. 4514, doesn't recognize the unique Antarctic environment. For example, even the most stringent air pollution standards and monitoring programs articulated under the "prevention of significant deterioration" guidance for the national parks within the United States would allow far more emissions in Antarctica than currently exist or would be advisable. In addition, imposition through domestic law of advanced forms of wastewater treatment that include chemical processing might actually harm the Antarctic environment more than discharging after maceration and dilution as recommended by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.
NSF is presently incorporating sound environmental practices throughout U.S. Antarctic operations based on its authority in the Antarctic Conservation Act, which expressly implements environmental mandates and accords under the Antarctic Treaty, and the principles of sound environmental practices established by SCAR or articulated in domestic requirements which can be translated into Antarctic standards and controls. This program stems from the Administration's five-year safety, environment, and health initiative previously mentioned. NSF has developed milestones and timetables for completion of that initiative in a document entitled "Implementation of the National Science Foundation's Strategy for Compliance with Environmental Law in Antarctica." Among other important regulatory tasks that document calls for promulgation and implementation of a permitting program for all harmful pollutants within the next two years. A great deal of progress has already been made in improving practices in Antarctica. NSF is committed to protecting the Antarctic environment. Imposition of inappropriate domestic regulatory provisions or requirements to an international area already governed by a specific statute and international accords is neither necessary nor warranted.
For example, H.R. 4514 makes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) directly applicable to federal activities in Antarctica. Imposing NEPA's requirements in the context of extraterritorial actions or impacts would impede the U.S. Government's ability to carry out an effective foreign policy with respect to Antarctica, and could raise a constitutional question if deemed to apply to exercises of the President's inherent constitutional authority.
Application of NEPA to Antarctica would set an ill-advised precedent for the U.S. government in light of the international aspects of this unique scientific research program.
In any event, Executive Order 12114, Environmental Effects Abroad of Major Federal Actions, contains virtually identical procedural safeguards and requirements as those contained in NEPA. For U.S. agency operations in the Antarctic, an environmental impact statement must be prepared if a "major Federal action significantly affecting the environment" is undertaken. In 1980, the National Science Foundation prepared a programmatic EIS. That EIS is now being updated after a public scoping hearing was held in 1989.
Adopted recommendations under the Antarctic Treaty also require environmental assessments. NSF already performs environmental assessments for certain Antarctic activities pursuant to Executive Order 12114 and international accords under the Antarctic Treaty, and recently issued proposed regulations under Executive Order 12114 that provide for environmental assessments of all major federal actions in Antarctica.
Enactment of the citizen suit provision in H.R. 4514 when NSF is implementing its initiative could harm the United States scientific mission in Antarctica, and may prove to be counterproductive from an environmental protection standpoint. This provision will allow private litigants to seek injunctions regardless of NSF's compliance with environmental assessments or impact statements under the Executive Order, or NSF's adherence to the environmental protections contained in other statutes. Private litigants who want little or no human activity in Antarctica could sue NSF, thereby creating a strong potential for disruption of science on the continent science which is important to international ecological and environmental concerns, including global climate change, ozone depletion, and similar processes.
Reasonable alternatives to citizen suit provisions exist.
For example, an independent audit of all U.S. Antarctic stations and field camps could be conducted by a panel of experts upon completion of the environmental protection measures already set forth by NSF, but in no event later than March 1, 1994 and then repeated on a periodic basis. The panel, consisting of members with expertise in environmental science, engineering, law, policy, assessments, enforcement, or compliance monitoring, would report to NSF and directly to Congress the results of its audit, with additional recommendations and estimated costs for implementing those recommendations. No panel member would be an employee of NSF, and at least two members would be from outside the government. Such an alternative to citizen suits would ensure that the Antarctic environment is protected, reasonable deadlines are met, and consideration given to the funding necessary for