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Environmental problems in the federal government : hearing before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, September 21, 1993 online

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S. Hrg. 103-607

ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE FEDERAL

GOVERNMENT



4. G 74/9: S. HRG. 103-607

ironnental Problens in the Feder.



HEARING

BEFORE THE

COMMITTEE ON
GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
UNITED STATES SENATE

ONE HUNDRED THIRD CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION



SEPTEMBER 21, 1993



Printed for the use of the Committee on Governmental Affairs







AUG f 6 m

JSBSS&SSSS&



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
72-977 cc WASHINGTON I 1994

For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-044590-6



S. Hrg. 103-607



ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT

\. 6 74/9: S. HRG. 103^607

ronnental Problens in the Feder.



HEARING

BEFORE THE

COMMITTEE ON
GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
UNITED STATES SENATE

ONE HUNDRED THIRD CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION



SEPTEMBER 21, 1993



Printed for the use of the Committee on Governmental Affairs



•-




ownwroRv '
AUG J 6 1994



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
72-977 cc WASHINGTON : 1994

For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-044590-6



COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS

JOHN GLENN, Ohio, Chairman
SAM NUNN, Georgia WILLIAM V. ROTH, Jr., Delaware

CARL LEVIN, Michigan TED STEVENS, Alaska

JIM SASSER, Tennessee WILLIAM S. COHEN, Maine

DAVID PRYOR, Arkansas THAD COCHRAN, Mississippi

JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, Connecticut JOHN McCAIN, Arizona

DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota

Leonard Weiss, Staff Director

Christopher R. Kline, Professional Staff Member

Robert Alvarez, Professional Staff Member

Franklin G. Polk, Minority Staff Director and Chief Counsel

Michal Sue Prosser, Chief Clerk



(ID



CONTENTS



Opening statements: Page

Senator Glenn 1

Senator Cohen 5

Prepared statements:

Senator Glenn 3

Senator Cohen 5

WITNESSES

Tuesday, September 21, 1993

Alice M. Rivlin, Deputy Director, Office of Management and Budget 7

Steven Herman, Assistant Administrator for Enforcement, U.S. Environ-
mental Protection Agency, accompanied by Gordon M. Davidson, Director,
Office of Federal Faculties Enforcement; Thomas McCall, Acting Deputy
Assistant Administrator, Office of Federal Facilities Enforcement; and
Henry L. Longest II, Office Director, Office of Emergency and Remedial
Response, EPA 15

Thomas P. Grumbly, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Restoration and
Waste Management, U.S. Department of Energy 25

Sherri Wasserman Goodman, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environ-
mental Security), Office of the Secretary of Defense 30

Michael Heyman, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management and Budg-
et, U.S. Department of the Interior, accompanied by Jonathan P. Deason,
Director, Office of Enviornmentai Affairs 35

Alphabetical List of Witnesses

Goodman, Sherri Wasserman:

Testimony 30

Prepared statement 117

Grumbly, Thomas P.:

Testimony 25

Prepared statement 64

Herman, Steven:

Testimony 15

Prepared statement 57

Heyman, Michael:

Testimony 35

Prepared statement 122

Rivlin, Alice M.:

Testimony 7

Prepared statement 53

APPENDLX

Prepared statements of witnesses in order of appearance 53

Letter with attachments to Senator Glenn from Mr. Heyman 133

Letter with attachment to Senator Levin from Ms. Goodman 148

Letter to Senator Glenn from Mr. Herman 149

Letter to Senator Glenn, dated Nov. 23, 1993, from Ms. Rivlin 150



(III)



ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT



TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1993

U.S. Senate,
Committee on Governmental Affairs,

Washington, D.C.

The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:33 a.m., in room
342, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. John Glenn, Chairman
of the Committee, presiding.

Present: Senators Glenn, Levin, and Cohen.

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN GLENN

Chairman Glenn. The hearing will be in order.

For the past several years, the Governmental Affairs Committee
has maintained an active interest in how the United States Gov-
ernment is facing up to its environmental cleanup responsibilities.
We talk a lot about what is going on with factories and with mu-
nicipalities all over the country. We have our own set of problems
within the Federal Government that we have been too laggard in
addressing.

As we approach the next century, the daunting environmental
challenges posed by the Government itself are proving to have far-
reaching implications, not only for the safety and health of Ameri-
cans but also for our national security, and indeed our whole econ-
omy.

The Federal Government generates, transports, stores, and dis-
poses of massive amounts of hazardous wastes in many diverse op-
erations, and with great difficulty, I might add, in many of them.
For instance, in prosecuting the cold war, the Energy and Defense
Departments have created profound and widespread contamination
not only in this Nation but also in other countries. The thing was
produce, produce, the Russians are coming, the Soviets are coming,
we have to produce, get the stuff out there. What do we do with
the waste, the hazardous waste? Put it in the ground. We will deal
with that later, somehow, and the last few years, it has turned out,
is the later. Now we have to get going on this.

Also, the Government leases public lands for commercial use,
such as mining and landfills, which often result not only in our
own Nation, but in other countries, in contamination for which the
Government is responsible.

Other Federal activities involving hazardous wastes include leak-
ing underground storage tanks and pipelines, laboratories, prisons,
postal facilities, office buildings, illegal drug laboratories seized by

(1)



law enforcement authorities, and research and development facili-
ties.

While this is just the most recent of many hearings that this
Committee has held on this subject, the purpose of this hearing is
to take stock of the overall picture. In doing so, we will explore sev-
eral strategic issues which have significant ramifications for our
national environmental policies.

For example, the U.S. Government is responsible for the single
largest, most expensive, and complex environmental cleanup prob-
lem in the Nation. No one knows for sure what the bottom line is
for the total costs for Federal cleanup efforts. According to a 1991
study done by the University of Tennessee, the price tag just for
the Energy and Defense Departments alone could be nearly $500
billion.

Federal facility cleanup spending has experienced explosive
growth, going from about 276 projects costing $183 million in fiscal
year 1984 to more than 10,200 projects budgeted for $12 billion in
fiscal year 1994. This almost 100-fold jump in spending is just the
beginning.

The facts are, we really don't know how much this is going to
cost, but there is one thing that has remained certain throughout
all of these estimating processes that different experts and groups
and Governments and laboratories have gone through. The one
thing that has remained constant is that every time there is an es-
timate, it is higher.

I recall in this very room right here we had estimates back some
years ago when we started some of the interest in the Department
of Energy and the nuclear weapons complex all over this country,
we had an estimate that astounded us. We thought it was very
high. They said it might cost as much as $8 billion to clean up the
whole nuclear weapons complex. That was in 1985, I believe. Here
we are some 8 years later and we are talking about between $160
and $200 billion just for the nuclear weapons complex alone over
a 20- to 30-year period.

The one constant that has remained true throughout all this is
that every time we have an estimate, it goes up.

The truly expensive environmental remediation has yet to begin
in earnest. In all likelihood, the next big, we could call it an "envi-
ronmental balloon mortgage payment," will be coming from the In-
terior Department. The Committee report I released yesterday indi-
cates that the Interior Department has hazardous waste sites po-
tentially in the tens of thousands, and we will be addressing some
of that later today.

The existing environmental regulatory framework may not be
compatible with the problems facing Federal facilities. EPA has not
given Federal facility enforcement the resources and priority it de-
serves. There are not standards defining, for instance, how clean
is clean. To what level do we wish to clean things up? It is a criti-
cal tool to control cost growth.

In particular, the establishment of cleanup standards for radi-
ation should be given a high priority by EPA, since the DOE alone
may be responsible for as many as 15,000 radiologically-contami-
nated sites, and this estimate does not include thousands of addi-



tional contaminated DOE production facilities to be shut down that
will have to undergo decontamination and decommissioning.

Several Federal sites, such as DOE's Hanford Reservation and
DOD's Jefferson Proving Ground are so severely contaminated that
we lack the funds and technology to restore them to their original
conditions. Thus, land use planning is proving to be of critical im-
portance.

Cleaning up Federal facilities may prove to be among the most
dangerous occupations in the country. Yet, little has been done to
assure a safe working environment, particularly at the Energy and
Interior Departments.

Another issue is that financial accountability is not assured. The
lion's share of spending for Federal facility cleanup is taking place
in DOE, which is responsible for more than half of the total
amount budgeted for fiscal year 1994 for Federal facility cleanup.
DOE is virtually exempt from financial accountability requirements
and has failed to follow required financial management processes
and controls.

According to a GAO study done for me last year, cost overruns
in DOE's cleanup program are about 50 percent a year. The lack
of financial accountability translates into a lack of productivity.

Another issue is whether the U.S. Government is structured
properly to deal with the enormous challenge. The first places this
question needs to be answered are the EPA and OMB, agencies
with Government-wide budgeting, managing, and regulatory re-
sponsibilities. It appears that these agencies have not done the co-
ordination needed to address the cross-cutting problems of Federal
facility cleanup.

Moreover, the Defense and Energy Departments, which are re-
sponsible for over 90 percent of all Government-wide environ-
mental cleanup spending are still structured more to prosecute the
cold war and not necessarily set up to address their daunting envi-
ronmental legacies.

Also, meaningful interagency cooperation to address common is-
sues should be given a higher priority. As part of the process initi-
ated by the Vice President to reinvent Government, make Govern-
ment more efficient, much more formal interagency cooperation is
necessary if we are going to avoid duplication, excessive costs, and
take advantage of the skills and strengths that each agency has to
offer. We will have to remove the institutional barriers that pre-
vent Federal agencies from making Government work more effi-
ciently.

In this regard, I wish to commend Dr. Rivlin, Deputy Director of
OMB, who will be testifying here today, for her efforts to convene
for the first time an interagency task force that will focus on the
enormous challenge posed by Federal facility cleanup. While this
task force is very important, it is just the first step in a long and
difficult process ahead.

I wish to thank the witnesses for testifying today and welcome
them. Dr. Rivlin will be our first witness today.

PREPARED STATEMENT OF SENATOR GLENN

For the past several years, the Governmental Affairs Committee has maintained
an active interest in how the U.S. Government is facing up to its environmental
cleanup responsibilities. As we approach the next century, the daunting environ-



mental challenges posed by the Government, itself, are proving to have far reaching
implications not only for the safety and health of Americans Dut also our national
security and economy.

The Federal Government generates, transports, stores and disposes of massive
amounts of hazardous wastes in many diverse operations. For instance, in prosecut-
ing the cold war, the Energy and Defense departments have created profound and
widespread contamination not only in this Nation, but also in other countries. The
Government also leases public lands for commercial use, such as mining and land-
fills, which often result in contamination, for which the Government is responsible,
other Federal activities involving hazardous wastes include leaking underground
storage tanks and pipelines, laboratories, prisons, postal facilities, office buildings,
illegal drug laboratories seized by law enforcement authorities, and research and de-
velopment facilities.

While this is just the most recent of many hearings that this Committee has held
on this subject, the purpose of this hearing is to take stock of the overall picture.
In doing so we will explore several strategic issues which have significant ramifica-
tions for our national environmental policies. For example:

• The U.S. Government is responsible for the single largest, most expensive, and
complex environmental cleanup problem in the Nation. No one knows, for sure,
what the "bottom line" is for trie total costs for Federal cleanup efforts. According
to a 1991 study done by the University of Tennessee, the price tag just for Energy
and Defense departments alone could be nearly $500 billion. Federal facility cleanup
spending has experienced explosive growth going from about 276 projects, costing
$183 million in fiscal year 1984 to more than 10,200 projects budgeted for $12 bil-
lion in fiscal year 1994. This almost 100-fold jump in spending is just the beginning.
The truly expensive environmental remediation nas yet to begin in earnest. In all
likelihood, the next big environmental balloon mortgage payment" will be coming
from the Interior department. A Committee report I released yesterday indicates
that the Interior department has hazardous waste sites potentially in the tens of
thousands.

• The existing environmental regulatory framework may not be compatible with
the problems facing Federal facilities. EPA has not given Federal facility enforce-
ment the resources and priority it deserves. There are no standards defining "how
clean is clean?" — a critical tool to control cost growth. In particular, the establish-
ment of cleanup standards for radiation should be given a high priority by EPA,
since the DOE alone may be responsible for as many as 15,000 radiologically con-
taminated sites. This estimate does not include thousands of additional contami-
nated DOE production facilities to be shut down that will have to undergo decon-
tamination and decommissioning. Several Federal sites, such as the DOE's Hanford
Reservation, and the DOD's Jefferson Proving Ground are so severely contaminated
that we lack the funds and technology to restore them to their original conditions.
Thus, land-use planning is proving to be of critical importance. Cleaning up Federal
facilities may prove to be among the most dangerous occupations in the country.
Yet, little has been done to assure a safe working environment, particularly at the
Energy and Interior departments.

• Financial accountability is not assured. The lions share of spending for Federal
facility cleanup is taking place in the DOE, which is responsible for more than half
of the total amount budgeted for fiscal year 1994 for Federal facility cleanup. DOE
is virtually exempt from financial accountability requirements and has failed to fol-
low required financial management processes and controls. According to a GAO
study done for me last year, cost overruns in DOE's cleanup program are about 50
percent a year, the lack of financial accountability translates into a lack of produc-
tivity.

• Is the U.S. Government structured properly to deal with the enormous chal-
lenge? The first places this question needs to be answered are the EPA and OMB —
agencies with Government-wide budgeting, managing and regulatory responsibil-
ities. It appears that these agencies have not done the coordination needed to ad-
dress the cross cutting problems of Federal facility cleanup. Moreover the Defense
and Energy departments which are responsible for over 90 percent of all Govern-
ment-wide environmental cleanup spending, are still structured to prosecute the
cold war and not necessarily set up to address their daunting environmental leg-
acies.

Also, meaningful interagency cooperation to address common issues should be
given a higher priority. As part of the process initiated by the Vice President to
reinvent Government, much more formal interagency cooperation is necessary to
avoid duplication, excessive costs, and to take advantage of the skills and strengths
that each agency has to offer. We will have to remove the institutional barriers that
prevent Federal agencies from making Government work more efficiently. In this re-



gard, I wish to commend Dr. Rivlin, who will be testifying today, for her efforts to
convene, for the first time, an interagency task force that will focus on the enormous
challenge posed by Federal facility cleanup. While this task force is very important,
it is just the first step in a long and difficult process ahead.
I wish to thank the witnesses for testifying today and welcome them.

Senator Glenn. First, Senator Cohen, let me add one thing. I
have to go to a meeting down the street at the other end of Penn-
sylvania Avenue for a short time this morning. I will be leaving
here a little bit after 10 o'clock. Senator Levin will be here to
Chair, and I will be back as soon as I can, but there will be a little
break in my attendance here this morning.

But I do wish to thank our witnesses and welcome any remarks
by Senator Cohen.

OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR COHEN

Senator Cohen. Mr. Chairman, there has been no coordination
of our statements. Therefore, mine is merely duplicative of what
you have already outlined. In the interest of efficiency, which we
are about to criticize the executive branch for lacking, I will forego
making any lengthy opening statement and simply submit mine for
the record.

I would only suggest that this environmental cleanup has the po-
tential to rival the savings and loan scandal in terms of the mag-
nitude of the problem, and we are estimating that the Federal Gov-
ernment's responsibility could be as high as $500 billion. That is
going to amount to roughly $2,000 per taxpayer over the next 30
years. That is the magnitude of the problem that we are now in-
quiring about.

As you have outlined in your own opening statement, we have
first to determine which sites have to be cleaned up, to what stand-
ard-residential, industrial — and who is responsible — the companies
who have mined the land in the case of Interior, the Government
contractors who have left the radioactive waste, or, ultimately, the
taxpayer. All of these issues have to be addressed.

Plus, there is a final factor, and that is that there seems to be
a lack of strategy on behalf of the executive branch. While the De-
partment of Energy, the Department of Defense, and the Depart-
ment of the Interior all have significant environmental cleanup
programs underway, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of
coordination.

I think all of those questions have to be raised today and will
hopefully be answered in part or in whole by Dr. Rivlin and the
other witnesses. I look forward to their testimony.

Thank you.

PREPARED STATEMENT OF SENATOR COHEN

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that you have called this hearing to address environ-
mental problems in the Federal Government. However, I doubt that the Committee
will be pleased with the testimony that it will hear today.

At a time when public confidence in the government is at an all-time low, the
American people may be faced with a staggering bill for environmental clean-up at
tens of thousands of sites throughout the Nation. While the exact figure is unknown,
one thing is certain — the cost to clean up the Nation's waste sites will be very ex-
pensive. One estimate developed by the University of Tennessee, has suggested that
the total cost of environmental clean-up approaches $1 trillion with the Federal
Government responsible for about half. The bulk of these expenses will be required
to clean-up sites managed by the Departments of Defense, Energy and Interior. Just



6

2 months ago the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations estimated
that the cost to clean up Department of Interior sites alone, which consist mostly
of abandoned mines, "will cost tens of billions."

The public and our economy can ill-afford another crisis on the scale of the Sav-
ings and Loan debacle. We already have seen government expenditures for clean-
up increase 65 fold over the last decade from $183 million in 1984 to $12 billion
budgeted for fiscal year 1994. And if estimates of future government expenditures
are correct, this problem will cost each taxpayer more than $2,000 over tne next 30
years.

While taxpayers will soon realize that they will be asked to pay for the most ex-
pensive and problematic environmental cleanup ever undertaken, there are still sig-
nificant unanswered questions. First, do all these sites require clean-up? If so, to
what standard will they be restored? Should we adopt the premise that these sites
will be restored to residential standards, or to industrial standards? More fun-
damentally we need to ask if the government is even capable of dealing with this
problem.

Another question on everyone's mind is who will pay. Will it be the companies
who mined the sites, will it be the government contractors who left a legacy of radio-
active waste or will the American taxpayer once again get saddled with the bill? To
the taxpayers in my state of Maine, footing the bill will be a difficult pill to swallow
particularly in these difficult economic times. It will not be easy to explain to the
hard working people of Maine why they must pay for the irresponsibility and failure
of the government and its contractors to identify the potential for, and prevent the
situation we find ourselves in today.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the government has no strategy to address
the challenge of environmental clean-up. Despite the fact that the Departments of
Energy, Defense and Interior have significant clean-up programs, coordination be-
tween them is virtually non-existent.

Lack of strategy and coordination is evident. The success of the Federal Govern-
ment's management of its cleanup programs to date has been mixed. In some in-
stances, such as the Department of Energy's Uranium Mill Tailings project, pro-
grams have been successful. On the other hand, the Department of Interior has
been slow to address its environmental problems. Consequently, its limited clean-
up efforts have not produced acceptable results. In addition, the National Academy
oi Sciences says that the Bureau of Land Management at Interior has been delib-
erately avoiding this matter. Better structure and communication among programs
will avoid repeating failures and enable managers to adopt successful strategies.

I am looking forward to hearing representatives from OMB discuss how the gov-
ernment can better coordinate its efforts and perhaps cut the costs associated with
this environmental challenge. I am also hopeful that the EPA will take a more ac-
tive role in giving a higher priority to formulating an aggressive strategy for Federal
facility clean-up.

We must also ensure that clean-up dollars are used more effectively. Experience
to date with clean-ups managed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the
Departments of Energy and Defense suggested that any clean-up costs are difficult
to estimate and increase significantly with regulatory and legal problems. As Presi-
dent Clinton suggested in his February speech to a Joint Session of Congress, we
need to ensure that the funds are used for clean-up and not for paying legal fees.

We know that the origins of poor performance in government clean-up efforts are
in the structure of government and poor teamwork between its agencies. We also
need to take steps to ensure that this money is spent for its intended purpose. To-
day's hearing will focus on the capabilities of Federal agencies and how they can


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Committee on GoveEnvironmental problems in the federal government : hearing before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, September 21, 1993 → online text (page 1 of 18)