2006 Annual Priorities Report: Oil & Gas in Alaska and Mining in Region 10
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
View the Updated Region 10 Environmental Strategy
EPA Region 10’s task is to keep pace with the accelerating and expanding efforts of industry and its regulatory partners. The Agency is responsible for reviewing proposed projects, issuing permits, and enforcing compliance with environmental law, policy, and executive orders. Large projects pose unique technical and regulatory challenges for federal and state agencies and a necessity to coordinate our actions. Major projects typically include large areas of land disturbance, loss of habitat, changes in water quality and quantity, potential air quality concerns and a variety of secondary and tertiary impacts, including the need for significant new infrastructure to support proposed activities. Additionally, for mining projects where financial assurance is inadequate or companies go bankrupt, remediating impacts is left to state and federal agencies, including EPA.
Description of the Challenge…
Why is it a priority?
Extraction of oil, gas, and mineral resources in Alaska and development of mineral resources in the Pacific Northwest are important economic activities in Region 10 and the Nation as part of the National Energy Plan. Changing technologies, coupled with market value, have increased exploration, extraction, production and processing. As projects proceed from identification through development, EPA is responsible for the implementation of regulatory and permit requirements to protect public and environmental health and to fulfill the federal government’s Tribal trust responsibility.
Region 10 has a cadre of staff with specialized oil, gas, and mining expertise, along with the responsibility and authority to fulfill EPA obligations. We will complete the review of environmental impact statements, prepare comprehensive NEPA documents, and exercise regulatory and permit obligations in a timely manner. Communication, coordination, and understanding of regulatory requirements will be enhanced by identifying a single point of contact for each major project and engaging with industry, Tribes, other federal and state agencies at the earliest possible opportunity. We will also coordinate permit and NEPA schedules to the extent possible, identify and resolve issues early in the process with a single voice, and make consistent decisions.
Accomplishments for 2005 include:
|Goals and Objectives… |
What are the desired long-term outcomes?
Our goal is to maximize protection of public health and the environment while expediting environmental decision making through an interdisciplinary approach and coordination with other state, federal and Tribal partners. The outcome of this goal will be minimized habitat disturbance, protected water and air resources, and preserved subsistence resources.
Strategy and Approach…
How do we anticipate achieving our desired goals and objectives?
Oil extraction in the fragile arctic conditions of Alaska’s north slope presents unique challenges.
Who else is working in this area?
The Oil and Gas Sector in Alaska and Regional Mining Sector work with every major EPA program, multiple state and federal agencies, Tribes, industry, and other stakeholders. The following is a brief description of how these groups relate.
Region 10 Offices: Air, water, waste, ecosystems and Tribal programs coordinate and leverage their respective efforts to maximize implementation of programs and environmental decision-making.
Federal and State Agency partnerships: EPA staff and programs work closely with other federal and state resource management and environmental agencies involved in oil and gas and mining. Coordinating with other agencies enhances efforts, leverages resources and streamlines decision-making processes where appropriate.
Tribal governments: We work with Tribes to understand their issues and concerns and collect traditional ecological knowledge for use in EPA decision-making. Through this process and the investment in capacity building it represents, Tribal governments will have greater opportunity to participate in future environmental decisions.
Other stakeholders: Non-government organizations, industry and industry groups, and Regional Citizens Advisory Councils provide a unique opportunity to EPA to leverage knowledge and expertise to assist in Agency decisions.
Measures of Success…
- Inspection of 53 facilities for compliance with federal air, wastewater and UIC permits and with spill/facility response plans, including necessary follow-up enforcement actions,
- Continued development of offshore oil and gas permits for wastewater management and groundwater protection, and determination of appropriate air pollution control technology for facilities. Developed and issued NPDES permits for management and discharge of wastewater for mining operations in Alaska and Idaho,
- Completed NEPA and permitting training for Tribal governments and communities to support capacity development and participation in environmental decision-making,
- Completed review and comment on federal agency NEPA documents for onshore and offshore leasing, coastal management and for sequestration of carbon dioxide by underground injection. Reviewed and commented on federal agency NEPA documents for new mining operations in Alaska, Idaho, and Washington,
- Updated the Region 10 mining strategy that describes EPA’s regulatory program obligations over the next three years and identifies actions to support meeting these obligations and guiding mining program improvements. A draft of the updated strategy was shared with the state and federal agencies, Tribes, industry, and organizations that we work with on mining issues and EPA met with many of these groups to discuss the strategy.
|How will we know we have achieved success? |
- Effective and timely Agency actions including issuance of UIC, NPDES and air permits and EIS and 404 permit reviews,
- Meaningful consultation with Tribal governments,
- Enforcement of permit provisions and other Agency actions which minimize environmental damage,
- Environmental resources protected to the maximum extent of the law and environmental regulations,
- No unacceptable risk to human health and the environment,
- EPA efforts complement rather than duplicate those of other regulatory agencies.
EPA and other concerned parties are working to ensure the coexistence of Alaska's abundant wildlife with oil and gas extraction efforts.