oversight

National Wildlife Refuges: Opportunities to Improve the Management and Oversight of Oil and Gas Activities on Federal Lands

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-08-28.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

              United States General Accounting Office

GAO           Report to Congressional Requesters




August 2003
              NATIONAL WILDLIFE
              REFUGES
              Opportunities to
              Improve the
              Management and
              Oversight of Oil and
              Gas Activities on
              Federal Lands




GAO-03-517
              a
                                                August 2003


                                                NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES

                                                Opportunities to Improve the
Highlights of GAO-03-517, a report to           Management and Oversight of Oil and
congressional requesters
                                                Gas Activities on Federal Lands



The 95-million acre National                    About one-quarter (155 of 575) of all refuges have past or present oil
Wildlife Refuge System contains                 and gas activity, some dating to at least the 1920s. Activities range from
federal lands devoted to the                    exploration to drilling and production to pipelines transiting refuge lands.
conservation and management of                  One hundred five refuges contain a total of 4,406 oil and gas wells—2,600
fish, wildlife, and plant resources.            inactive wells and 1,806 active wells. The 1,806 wells, located at 36 refuges
While the federal government owns
the surface lands in the system, in
                                                and many around the Gulf Coast (see figure), produced oil and gas valued at
many cases private parties own the              $880 million during the last 12 month reporting period, roughly 1 percent of
subsurface mineral rights and have              domestic production. Thirty-five refuges contain only pipelines.
the legal authority to explore for
and extract oil and gas. GAO was                The Fish and Wildlife Service has not assessed the cumulative environmental
asked to determine the extent of oil            effects of oil and gas activities on refuges. Available studies, anecdotal
and gas activity on refuges, identify           information, and GAO’s observations show that the environmental effects of
the environmental effects, and                  oil and gas activities vary from negligible, such as from buried pipelines, to
assess the Fish and Wildlife                    substantial, such as from large oil spills or from large-scale infrastructure.
Service’s management and                        These effects also vary from the temporary to the longer term. Some of the
oversight of oil and gas activities.            most detrimental effects of oil and gas activities have been reduced through
                                                environmental laws and improved practices and technology. Moreover, oil
                                                and gas operators have taken steps, in some cases voluntarily, to reverse
In a draft of this report, GAO                  damages resulting from oil and gas activities.
made several recommendations
to enhance the Fish and Wildlife                Federal management and oversight of oil and gas activities varies widely
Service’s management of oil and                 among refuges--some refuges take extensive measures, while others exercise
gas activities, including collecting            little control or enforcement. GAO found that this variation occurs because
better data; improving training,                of differences in authority to oversee private mineral rights and because
oversight, and land acquisition
                                                refuge managers lack enough guidance, resources, and training to properly
practices; and strengthening
permitting authority. GAO also                  manage and oversee oil and gas activities. Greater attention to oil and gas
recommended that the Service                    activities by the Fish and Wildlife Service would increase its understanding
seek additional authority to                    of associated environmental effects and contribute to more consistent use of
regulate private mineral rights.                practices and technologies that protect refuge resources.

In response to comments received                National Wildlife Refuges with Oil and Gas Wells
from the Department of the
Interior, GAO has clarified its
position as to the means that the
Service could use to improve
oversight. Also, in light of Interior’s
comments indicating a perceived
inability to request additional
authority, GAO is asking Congress
to consider expanding the Service’s
authority to regulate private
mineral rights.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-517.

To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact William R.
Swick at (206) 287-4851 or swickw@gao.gov.
Contents



Letter                                                                                                     1
                             Results in Brief                                                              3
                             Background                                                                    7
                             Extent of Oil and Gas Activities in Refuges                                  10
                             Overall Effects of Oil and Gas Activities Are Unknown,
                               but Those Activities Have Diminished Some Refuge System
                               Resources                                                                  18
                             FWS Management and Oversight of Oil and Gas Activities
                               Varies Widely                                                              31
                             Conclusions                                                                  42
                             Recommendations for Executive Action                                         43
                             Matter for Congressional Consideration                                       44
                             Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                           44


Appendixes
              Appendix I:    Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities                                          48
             Appendix II:    Summary of Oil and Gas Activities at Refuges Visited                         53
             Appendix III:   Analysis of Legal Authority of the Fish and Wildlife Service
                             to Impose Prospective Permit Requirements                                    55
             Appendix IV:    Scope and Methodology                                                        60
              Appendix V:    Comments from the Department of the Interior and
                             U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                               64
             Appendix VI:    GAO Contacts and Acknowledgments                                             67



Tables                       Table 1: Number of Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities,
                                      by FWS Region                                                       11
                             Table 2: Refuges with the Highest Number of Wells                            12
                             Table 3: Types of Oil- and Gas-Related Wells Located on National
                                      Wildlife Refuges                                                    13
                             Table 4: Oil and Gas Production from Refuge System Wells,
                                      January 2003                                                        14
                             Table 5: Refuges with Oil and Gas Pipelines Crossing
                                      Refuge Lands                                                        15
                             Table 6: Elements of Management and Oversight Found at
                                      Refuges Visited                                                     33




                             Page i                                GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
          Contents




Figures   Figure 1: Fish and Wildlife Service Regions                                             8
          Figure 2: National Wildlife Refuges with Oil and Gas Wells                             12
          Figure 3: Pipeline Storage and Loading Facilities,
                     Delta NWR (La.)                                                             16
          Figure 4: Deep Fork NWR (Okla.) Current and Approved
                     Acquisition Boundaries                                                      17
          Figure 5: Ongoing Cleanup of Oil Spill at Delta NWR (La.)                              20
          Figure 6: Wellhead at Delta NWR (La.)                                                  22
          Figure 7: Compressed Marsh Grid from 3-D Seismic Study at
                     McFaddin NWR (Tex.)                                                         24
          Figure 8: Site Restoration at McFaddin NWR (Tex.)                                      27
          Figure 9: Examples of Unreclaimed Infrastructure on NWRs                               28
          Figure 10: Marsh Restoration Project Funded by Oil and Gas
                     Operators at Sabine NWR (La.)                                               40
          Figure 11: Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area (Calif.), Plot of
                     Wells and One-Half Mile Boundary                                            61




          Abbreviations

          CAP          Contaminant Assessment Process
          FWS          Fish and Wildlife Service
          NPMS         National Pipeline Mapping System
          NWR          National Wildlife Refuge
          PCB          polychlorinated biphenyls
          RMIS         Refuge Management Information System
          VOC          volatile organic compounds
          WMA          Wildlife Management Area
          WMD          Wetland Management District

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          Page ii                                        GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
A
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548



                                    August 28, 2003                                                                 Leter




                                    The Honorable Wayne T. Gilchrest
                                    Chairman
                                    Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation,
                                     Wildlife, and Oceans
                                    Committee on Resources
                                    House of Representatives

                                    The Honorable Edward J. Markey
                                    House of Representatives

                                    The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System, as expressed in its
                                    governing legislation, is to “administer a national network of lands and
                                    waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate,
                                    restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats
                                    within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations
                                    of Americans.” The system is unique in that the 95 million acres of land in
                                    the system are the only federal lands managed primarily for the benefit
                                    of wildlife, providing habitat for native plants and animals, including
                                    endangered or threatened species, as well as important way points for
                                    migrating species, such as ducks, cranes, and eagles. The system, which
                                    represents more than 14 percent of all federal lands and has a presence
                                    in every state, is administered by the Department of the Interior’s Fish
                                    and Wildlife Service and includes both land that has always been federally
                                    owned and land that has been acquired from others. While the federal
                                    government owns almost all the surface lands in the system, in many
                                    cases the federal government does not own the subsurface mineral rights.
                                    Subject to some restriction, owners of subsurface mineral rights have the
                                    legal authority to explore for mineral resources such as oil and gas and,
                                    if such resources are found, to extract them.

                                    In October 2001, we reported that the Fish and Wildlife Service recognized
                                    some type of oil and gas activity on 77 of the 567 refuges and wetland
                                    management districts within the National Wildlife Refuge System in




                                    Page 1                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
calendar year 2000.1 However, our report recognized that this accounting
of activities might be incomplete because the data were based on refuges’
self-reporting. Therefore, to gain a more complete assessment of oil and
gas activities, you asked us to (1) determine the nature and full extent of
oil and gas activities in the National Wildlife Refuge System, (2) identify
environmental effects of oil and gas activities on refuge resources, and
(3) assess the Fish and Wildlife Service’s management and oversight of
these activities.

Our updated information on the extent of past and present oil and gas
activities within current wildlife refuge boundaries is based on a variety of
sources. Using national geographic information databases, we determined
how many documented oil and gas wells and transit pipelines were located
within or immediately proximate to refuge boundaries. We also used
Fish and Wildlife Service records to identify other evidence of oil and
gas activities. Premier Data Services, a firm with extensive experience in
computer-based geographic information systems and oil and gas leasing,
aided our data acquisition and analysis (see app. IV). Our analysis is more
extensive than any undertaken by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the
Department of the Interior, and at their request, we are providing our
database to them for future use.

We visited 16 refuges, representing a range of type and scale of oil and gas
activities and environmental effects. At each refuge, we asked the refuge
manager to describe the range of environmental effects of these oil and gas
activities, obtained any available studies of the effects, and visited selected
locations of oil and gas activity to observe actual conditions.

To assess the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Service to manage and
oversee oil and gas activities on refuges, we obtained information from the
Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor and reviewed the laws
and regulations pertaining to the Fish and Wildlife Service and other
federal land management agencies and recent court cases concerning
private mineral rights on federal lands. To assess the Fish and Wildlife


1
  U.S. General Accounting Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Information on Oil and
Gas Activities in the National Wildlife Refuge System, GAO-02-64R (Washington, D.C.:
Oct. 31, 2001). The National Wildlife Refuge System, at that time, consisted of 530 refuges
as well as 37 wetland management districts, which are management entities created to
administer waterfowl production areas. In this report, we use the term “refuge” to refer to
any unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, including national wildlife refuges, wildlife
ranges, wildlife management areas, and waterfowl production areas.




Page 2                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                   Service’s management and oversight of oil and gas activities, we obtained
                   information on policy, guidance, and practices from headquarters and the
                   7 regional offices and documented the actual practices in use at the
                   16 refuges we visited.



Results in Brief   About one-quarter, or 155, of the 575 refuges, have past or current oil
                   and gas activities, some dating to at least the 1920s. These activities
                   include oil and gas exploration, active and inactive drilling and production
                   facilities, and active pipelines transiting refuge lands. As of December 2002,
                   4,406 oil and gas wells were located on 105 refuges, with many of the wells
                   concentrated in Louisiana and Texas. Of the 4,406 wells on refuge lands,
                   a majority (2,600 wells) were inactive, either permanently plugged and
                   abandoned or temporarily idled with the possibility of future activation.
                   Thirty-six refuges have 1,806 active wells and more than half of these are
                   located in just 5 refuges. Since 1994, oil and gas exploration has occurred
                   at 44 refuges. In addition, at least 1 active pipeline is present at 107 refuges,
                   35 of which do not have any other oil and gas activity. During the most
                   recent 12-month reporting period, the 1,806 active wells produced
                   23.7 million barrels of oil and 88.2 million cubic feet of natural gas, about
                   1.1 and 0.4 percent of total domestic oil and gas production, respectively.
                   Based on 2001 average prices, refuge-based production had an estimated
                   total commercial value of $880 million.

                   The Fish and Wildlife Service has not conducted any assessments of the
                   cumulative environmental effects of oil and gas activities on refuge
                   resources. Available studies, anecdotal information, and our observations
                   show that the environmental effects of oil and gas activities and the
                   associated construction, operation, and maintenance of the infrastructure
                   on wildlife and habitat vary in severity, duration, and visibility. For
                   example, the environmental effects range from infrequent small oil spills
                   and minimal debris from abandoned infrastructure to large and chronic
                   spills and large-scale industrial development. Some damage, such as
                   habitat loss from infrastructure development, may last indefinitely, while
                   other damage, such as wildlife disturbance from exploration, is of shorter
                   duration. While certain types of damages are readily visible, others, such as
                   changes in groundwater hydrology or habitat conditions, are more difficult
                   to quantify or to link solely to oil and gas activities. Over the years, new
                   environmental laws and industry practice and technology have reduced,
                   but not eliminated, some of the most detrimental effects of oil and gas
                   activities. In addition, oil and gas operators have taken steps, in some cases
                   voluntarily, to reverse damages resulting from oil and gas activities, but



                   Page 3                                    GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
operators have not consistently taken such steps and the adequacy of these
steps is not known. The Fish and Wildlife Service does not have a complete
and accurate record of spills and other damage resulting from refuge-based
oil and gas activities, has conducted few studies to quantify the extent of
damage, and, therefore, does not know its full extent or the steps needed to
reverse it.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s management and oversight of oil and gas
activities varies widely among refuges. Management control standards for
federal agencies require federal agencies to identify risks to their assets,
provide guidance to mitigate these risks, and monitor compliance.2 For
the Fish and Wildlife Service, effectively managing oil and gas activities
on refuges would entail, at a minimum, identifying the extent of oil and
gas activities and their attendant risks, developing procedures to minimize
damages by issuing permits with conditions to protect refuge resources,
and monitoring the activities with trained staff to ensure compliance and
accountability. However, we found a wide variance in the extent to which
these management practices occur. Some refuges identify oil and gas
activities and the risks they pose to refuge resources, issue permits that
direct operators to minimize the effect of their activities on the refuge,
monitor oil and gas activities with trained personnel, and charge mitigation
fees or pursue legal remedies if damage occurs. For example, two refuges
in Louisiana collect mitigation fees from oil and gas operators that are then
used to pay for monitoring operator compliance with permits and state and
federal laws. In contrast, other refuges do not issue permits or collect fees,
are not aware of the extent of oil and gas activities or the attendant risks to
refuge resources, and provide little management and oversight.

There are two primary reasons for the variation in management of oil and
gas activities. First, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s legal authority to require
oil and gas operators to obtain access permits with conditions to protect
refuge resources varies considerably, depending upon the nature of the
mineral rights. For reserved mineral rights—cases where the property
owner retained the mineral rights when selling the land to the federal
government—the Fish and Wildlife Service can require permits only if the
property deed subjects the rights to such requirements. For outstanding
mineral rights—cases where the mineral rights were separated from the
surface lands before the government acquired the property—the Fish and


2
  U.S. General Accounting Office, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
Government, GAO/AIMD-00-2131 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1999).




Page 4                                         GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Wildlife Service has not formally determined its position regarding its
authority to require access permits. However, we believe, based on
statutory language and court decisions, that the Fish and Wildlife Service
has the authority to require owners of outstanding mineral rights to obtain
permits. Second, refuge managers lack sufficient guidance, resources, and
training to properly monitor oil and gas operators. Current Fish and
Wildlife Service guidance regarding the management of oil and gas
activities where there are private mineral rights is unclear, according to
refuge staff. Refuge staff said they also lack sufficient resources to oversee
oil and gas activities, which at some refuges are substantial. Only
three refuges in the system have staff dedicated on a full-time basis to
monitoring these activities, and some refuge staff cite a lack of time as a
reason for limited oversight. Staff also cite a lack of training as limiting
their capability to oversee oil and gas operators; the Fish and Wildlife
Service has offered only one oil and gas related workshop in the last
10 years. In addition, on a related management issue, the Fish and Wildlife
Service has not, in all cases, adequately examined new property for
possible contamination from oil and gas activities prior to acquisition.
While the Fish and Wildlife Service requires an assessment of all possible
contamination, the guidance and oversight provided to regional and refuge
personnel are inadequate to ensure that the requirements are met. We
found that three of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s seven regions acquire
lands without fully investigating hazardous substances and environmental
problems for which they may become liable. For example, one region
acquired a former oil storage site that required extensive soil removal and
disposal, costing the Fish and Wildlife Service and others $58,000.

We are recommending that the Secretary of the Interior direct the Director
of the Fish and Wildlife Service to strengthen its management and
oversight practices by (1) collecting and maintaining better data on oil
and gas activities and their environmental effects, and ensuring that
staff resources, funding, and training are sufficient and (2) clarifying
acquisition regulations to ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service does
not acquire unknown liabilities in its future land acquisitions. We are
also recommending that, to improve the framework for managing and
overseeing oil and gas activities, the Secretary and the Director work with
the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor to (1) determine
the Fish and Wildlife Service’s existing authority over outstanding mineral
rights and (2) seek from Congress, in coordination with appropriate
Administration officials, including those within the Executive Office of the
President, any necessary additional authority over such rights, and over
reserved mineral rights, to ensure that a consistent and reasonable set



Page 5                                   GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
of regulatory and management controls are in place for all oil and gas
activities occurring on national wildlife refuges. In light of the department’s
perceived limitations of its ability to request additional legislative authority,
Congress may also wish to consider expanding the Fish and Wildlife
Service’s authority to enable it to consistently regulate the surface activities
of private mineral owners on wildlife refuges.

The Department of the Interior’s response to the draft report was mixed.
The department agreed that it could improve its acquisition policy and
guidance. The department was silent on our recommendations that it
should collect and maintain better data on oil and gas activities and their
effects and that it should ensure that staff are adequately trained to oversee
oil and gas activities. We continue to believe these recommendations are
warranted. The department did raise a concern in regards to two of our
recommendations. First, the department questioned whether hiring
additional dedicated staff would be the most cost-effective solution to
improving oversight. In voicing its concern, however, the department
apparently misinterpreted our recommendation for the FWS to
determine what level of staffing is necessary to oversee these activities
as a call to hire additional staff. If the department determines that there
are more cost-effective means to ensure adequate staffing, such as
the use of contractors or temporary staff, that would also satisfy this
recommendation. Second, the department raised concerns about GAO’s
recommendation that it seek additional authority from Congress
to regulate private mineral rights. The department indicated that doing
so would violate the Recommendations Clause of the U.S. Constitution
by infringing upon the role of the President to recommend legislative
action to Congress. We disagree. As a practical matter, we expect that the
department would coordinate legislative proposals with the Administration
and we have clarified the recommendation accordingly. Moreover, as a
legal issue, there is nothing in the Recommendations Clause that bars an
executive branch department from recommending legislation to Congress.
Given the department’s opposition to this recommendation, we have also
raised this matter to Congress for its consideration.




Page 6                                    GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Background   The refuge system comprises 538 refuges, 37 wetland management districts
             (an administrative system of thousands of Waterfowl Production Areas and
             conservation easements, primarily in the north central United States), and
             50 coordination areas.3 The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) owns the
             surface lands and, in some cases, the mineral rights of National Wildlife
             Refuges and Waterfowl Production Areas, while conservation easements
             and coordination areas are owned or managed by others. Day-to-day
             management of wildlife refuges is the responsibility of local refuge
             managers, subject to the direction of seven regional refuge chiefs and
             the Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System (see fig. 1 for a map of
             FWS regions). Of FWS’s nearly $1.3 billion budget in fiscal year 2002,
             about $319 million was devoted to the operations and maintenance of the
             refuge system. In fiscal year 2002, $99.13 million from the Land and Water
             Conservation Fund was used for the acquisition of additional refuge lands.4




             3
               Waterfowl Production Areas, which were incorporated into the refuge system in 1966,
             are lands acquired by the FWS using Federal Duck Stamp monies for the preservation
             of wetland and grassland areas critical to waterfowl and other wildlife. A majority of
             these lands are located in the prairie wetlands of the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Montana.
             Coordination areas are federal lands made available to a state by cooperative agreement
             between the FWS and the state fish and wildlife agency.
             4
               The Land and Water Conservation Fund is authorized for, among other things, acquisition
             of land and waters for diverse purposes under several different laws. This includes
             conservation of endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, as
             well as the acquisition of any areas authorized for the refuge system by specific statutes.
             16 U.S.C. § 4061.




             Page 7                                          GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 1: Fish and Wildlife Service Regions




               Portland            Region 6
                                                                                       Hadley
         Regio                                            Minneapolis
                  n1
                                                                                    Region 5
                                                                 Region 3
                                      Denver


                                                                        Region 4
                            Albuquerque
                                                                          Atlanta
                                               Region 2

                          Alaska


                           Region 7
                                                                  Hawaii                Puerto Rico &
                                                                                        Virgin Islands

                                                              Region 1
                                                                                          Region 4

Source: GAO.



Over the years, we and others have examined the effects on the refuge
system of secondary activities,5 such as recreation, military activities,
and oil and gas activities—which include oil and gas exploration, drilling
and production, and transport. Exploring for oil and gas involves seismic
mapping of the subsurface topography. Seismic mapping, regardless of the
technology employed, requires surface disturbance, often involving small
dynamite charges placed in a series of holes, typically in patterned grids.
If seismic mapping reveals potential oil or gas deposits exploratory drilling
begins. Oil and gas drilling and production often requires constructing,
operating, and maintaining industrial infrastructure, including a network of
access roads and canals, local pipelines to connect well sites to production


5
  U.S. General Accounting Office, National Wildlife Refuges: Continuing Problems
with Incompatible Uses Calls for Bold Action, GAO/RCED-89-196 (Washington, D.C.:
Sept. 8, 1989).




Page 8                                                    GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
facilities and dispose of drilling wastes, and gravel pads to house the
drilling and other equipment. In addition, production may require storage
tanks, separating facilities, and gas compressors. Finally, transporting
oil and gas to production facilities or to users requires transit pipelines.
Typically buried, these pipelines range in size, with some as large as
30 inches in diameter. Pumping stations and storage tanks may also be
needed for pipeline operations.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966,
as amended, FWS is responsible for regulating all activities on refuges.
The act requires FWS to determine the compatibility of activities with the
purposes of the particular refuge and the mission of the refuge system and
not allow those activities deemed incompatible.6 However, FWS does not
apply the compatibility requirement to the exercise of private mineral
rights on refuges. Department of the Interior regulations also prohibit
leasing federal minerals underlying refuges outside of Alaska, except in
cases where federal minerals are being drained by operations on property
adjacent to the refuge.

Nevertheless, the activities of private mineral owners on refuges are
subject to a variety of legal restrictions, including FWS regulations.
A variety of federal laws affect how private mineral rights owners
conduct their activities.7 For example, the Endangered Species Act of 1973
prohibits the “take” of any endangered or threatened species and provides
for penalties for violations of the act;8 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
prohibits killing, hunting, possessing, or selling migratory birds, except in
accordance with a permit;9 and the Clean Water Act prohibits discharging
oil or other toxic substances into waters of the United States and imposes
liability for removal costs and damages resulting from a discharge.10




6
    16 U.S.C. §§ 668dd(a), (d).
7
    State laws also may affect the conduct of oil and gas activities.
8
  16 U.S.C. §§ 1538, 1540. The term “take” means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot,
wound, kills, trap, capture, or collect. 16 U.S.C. § 1532 (19).
9
    16 U.S.C. § 703.
10
     33 U.S.C. § 1321(b).




Page 9                                              GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                               Also, FWS regulations require that oil and gas activities be performed in
                               a way that minimizes the risk of damage to the land and wildlife and the
                               disturbance to the operation of the refuge. The regulations also require
                               that land affected be reclaimed after operations have ceased.11 Whether
                               FWS has authority to impose permitting requirements on private oil and gas
                               activities is discussed later in this report.



Extent of Oil and Gas          At least 155 of the 575 refuges of the National Wildlife Refuge System
                               have some past or present oil and gas activities—exploration, drilling and
Activities in Refuges          production, or transit pipelines. Many of these activities are concentrated
                               around the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas. We found that oil and gas
                               exploration has occurred at 44 refuges since 1994. We also determined
                               that there are 4,406 wells on 105 refuges, though only 41 percent of
                               the wells at 36 refuges are active, with the other wells either plugged
                               and abandoned or temporarily idle. Active wells on refuge lands produce
                               roughly 1.1 percent and 0.4 percent of domestically produced oil and gas
                               from onshore wells, with an approximate value of $880 million based on
                               2001 prices. In addition, active oil and gas transmission pipelines cross at
                               least 107 refuges. Bordering refuges, another 4,795 wells reside within
                               one-half mile outside refuge boundaries, in some cases on lands that FWS
                               may acquire in the future.



One-Quarter of All Refuges     About one-quarter, or 155, of the 575 refuges (538 refuges and 37 wetland
Have Past or Present Oil and   management districts) that constitute the National Wildlife Refuge System
                               have past or present oil and gas activities—exploration, drilling and
Gas Activities                 production, transit pipelines, or some combination of these (see table 1).12
                               Since 1994, FWS records show that 44 refuges have had some type of oil
                               and gas exploration activities—geologic study, survey, or seismic work.
                               More than one-half of these exploratory activities occurred in the
                               southeastern and southwestern regions of the United States. We also
                               identified 105 refuges with inactive or active oil and gas wells and
                               107 refuges with transit pipelines. Exploration or drilling and production
                               activities occurred at 120 of the 155 refuges.



                               11
                                    50 C.F.R § 29.32.
                               12
                                 This analysis does not include coordination areas, which are managed by states, or
                               conservation easements, which are not owned by FWS.




                               Page 10                                        GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Table 1: Number of Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities, by FWS Region

                                                                                                                                   Unduplicated counts,
                                                       Number of refuges, by category                                               by category group
                                       Exploration              Drilling and production             Active pipelines           Exploration      Exploration, drilling
                                       (survey and              (active and inactive oil          (transiting refuge         and/or drilling       and production,
FWS regiona                         seismic work)b                       and gas wells)c                     lands)d        and production         and/or pipelines
1 (Pacific)                                              5                                 20                        9                     22                      24
2 (Southwest)                                          10                                  22                       24                     22                      29
3 (Great Lakes-
Big Rivers)                                              1                                 10                       14                     10                       19
4 (Southeast)                                          14                                  28                       37                     34                       45
5 (Northeast)                                            1                                   4                       6                      4                       6
6 (Mountain-
Prairie)                                                 9                                 20                       15                     24                       27
7 (Alaska)                                               4                                   1                       2                      4                       5
Total                                                  44                                 105                     107                    120                       155
Sources: FWS, Premier Data Services, and Office of Pipeline Safety.
                                                                      a
                                                                          See figure 1.
                                                                      b
                                                                       Based on GAO’s analysis of refuge reported data to FWS’s Refuge Management Information System,
                                                                      1994-2001.
                                                                      c
                                                                       Based on GAO’s analysis of Premier Data Services’ nationwide well database, January 2003.
                                                                      d
                                                                       Based on GAO’s analysis of the National Pipeline Mapping System and Refuge Management
                                                                      Information System data, 1994-2001.


Wells in the Refuge System Are                                        In total, we identified 4,406 oil and gas wells within 105 refuges. The
Geographically Concentrated                                           number of wells per refuge ranged from 1 dry hole well drilled at Willapa
                                                                      Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Washington to 1,120 wells at Upper
                                                                      Ouachita NWR in Louisiana. Although refuges with oil and gas wells are
                                                                      present in every FWS region, they are more heavily concentrated in the
                                                                      Gulf Coast of the United States (see fig. 2). More than one-half of the wells
                                                                      (2,512) are located on refuges in FWS Region 4 and a majority of these are
                                                                      in Louisiana.




                                                                      Page 11                                            GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 2: National Wildlife Refuges with Oil and Gas Wells




                                                                               Well status by refuge
                                                                               Active wells        (36)
                                                                               Only inactive wells (69)


Source: Premier Data Services (data) and GAO (analysis).



Wells are also concentrated among a minority of the system’s units.
For example, five refuges contain 57 percent of all the wells in the system,
as shown in table 2.



Table 2: Refuges with the Highest Number of Wells

                                                                                             Number of
Refuge                                                     FWS region            State           wells
Upper Ouachita NWR                                                   4              La.                1,120
St. Catherine’s Creek NWR                                            4            Miss.                 465
Deep Fork NWR                                                        2           Okla.                  362
Delta NWR                                                            4              La.                 338
Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR                                          2             Tex.                 217
Total                                                                                                  2,502
Sources: Premier Data Services (data); GAO (analysis).




Page 12                                                      GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
A Minority of Wells in          About 4 out of 10 wells located on refuges are actively producing. Of the
Refuges Are Actively            4,406 wells, 1,806, or 41 percent, were known to be actively producing oil
                                or gas or disposing of produced water as of the most recent reporting
Producing, Yielding About       time period as of January 2003. Of the 105 refuges with oil and gas wells,
1 Percent of the U.S.’s Total   36 refuges have actively producing wells. The remaining 2,600 wells did
Onshore Production              not produce oil, gas, or water during the last 12 months; many of these
                                were plugged and abandoned or were dry holes.13 Gas wells were the most
                                common type of well as indicated in table 3.



                                Table 3: Types of Oil- and Gas-Related Wells Located on National Wildlife Refuges

                                Type of well                                                                                      Total
                                Gas                                                                                               1,265
                                Dry hole                                                                                           967
                                Unknowna                                                                                           677
                                Plugged and abandoned                                                                              642
                                Oil                                                                                                618
                                Injection or disposal                                                                               99
                                Oil and gas                                                                                         65
                                Active permit                                                                                       34
                                Miscellaneousb                                                                                      23
                                Temporarily abandoned                                                                               10
                                Coalbed methane                                                                                      6
                                Total                                                                                             4,406
                                Sources: Premier Data Services (data); GAO (analysis).
                                a
                                 Permittees had not yet updated the status of these wells to their respective state oil and gas
                                commissions
                                b
                                Includes service, test, recovery, and water wells.




                                13
                                  Wells that are plugged and abandoned are permanently sealed by cementing the well bore.
                                Improperly plugged wells can intrude on fresh water supplies or cause fires and seepage.




                                Page 13                                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                                                                   Active wells on refuge lands produced a total of 23.7 million barrels of
                                                                   oil and 88,171 million cubic feet of natural gas during the most recent
                                                                   12 months as of January 2003—about 1.1 percent of the 2.117 billion
                                                                   barrels of oil and 0.4 percent of the 24,532,514 million cubic feet of natural
                                                                   gas produced during 2001 (see table 4).14 The 1,806 active oil and gas wells
                                                                   on refuge lands were roughly 1 percent of the approximately 148,750 active
                                                                   onshore oil and gas wells in the United States in 2001.15 The value of all
                                                                   refuge-based production, based on 2001 average prices, was over
                                                                   $880 million. However, in addition to levels of production and oil and gas
                                                                   prices, the net benefit of oil and gas activities depends on a number of
                                                                   factors, including size of the investment in infrastructures and any adverse
                                                                   effects on the environment, recreation, and tourism.16



Table 4: Oil and Gas Production from Refuge System Wells, January 2003

                                                  Refuge-based                                          Refuge-based
                                                production (last Domestic onshore                         production          Wellhead price           Value of
                                                    12 months) production (2001)                     (percent of total)               (2001)        production
Oil production (barrels)                                23,694,548                 2,117,512,000                   1.1     $21.84 (per barrel)    $517,488,928
Natural gas production                                                                                                    $4.12 (per thousand
(million cubic feet)                                          88,171                    24,532,514                 0.4             cubic feet)    $363,264,520
Total                                                                                                                                             $880,753,448
Sources: Premier Data Services and Energy Information Administration (data); GAO (analysis).




                                                                   14
                                                                     All production data are based on information reported to each state oil and gas
                                                                   commission by oil and gas operators. This information is updated on different cycles
                                                                   in each state. The totals reported reflect the most recent data as of January 2003.
                                                                   15
                                                                    The total number of wells is based on the Energy Information Administration’s Financial
                                                                   Reporting System for 33 major energy-producing companies based in the United States.
                                                                   16
                                                                     The exact economic impact of oil and gas activities in wildlife refuges has never been
                                                                   estimated, according to FWS officials. Determination of such an impact is extremely
                                                                   difficult due to a number of factors. Because many of these refuges have had oil and gas
                                                                   activities for many decades, the effect that these older operations may have had on the local
                                                                   economy, including the possible adverse impacts on recreation or tourism industries, would
                                                                   be impossible to measure.




                                                                   Page 14                                            GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Transit Pipelines Cross Refuges                                    At least 273 miles of transit pipeline from 49 different oil and gas pipelines
                                                                   cross 28 of the 138 refuges for which data are available.17 These pipelines
                                                                   are almost exclusively buried and generally require right-of-way permits
                                                                   from FWS. The pipelines vary in size, up to 30 inches in diameter and
                                                                   carry a variety of products, including crude oil, refined petroleum products,
                                                                   and high-pressure natural gas (see table 5). While pipelines cannot be
                                                                   constructed across refuge lands unless FWS determines that the pipelines
                                                                   are compatible with the purposes of the refuge and issues a right-of-way
                                                                   permit, some pipelines were constructed before FWS acquired the
                                                                   property. These pipelines did not undergo a compatibility determination
                                                                   and may not have received a right-of-way permit.



Table 5: Refuges with Oil and Gas Pipelines Crossing Refuge Lands

                                                                        Number of refuges                            Number of pipelines                     Miles of pipeline
                        a
Liquids pipelines                                                                                19                                        24                            146.3
Natural gas pipelinesb                                                                            5                                         7                             24.2
Both liquid and gas                                                                               4                                        18                            102.4
Total                                                                                            28                                        49                              273
Sources: National Pipeline Mapping System and Department of Transportation (data); GAO (analysis based on 138 of the 575 refuges).
                                                                   a
                                                                    Category includes crude oil, liquid petroleum gas, natural gas liquids, and other petroleum products.
                                                                   b
                                                                    Category includes natural gas, highly volatile natural gas, and carbon dioxide.




                                                                   17
                                                                     Additional pipelines cross some of the 437 refuges for which digital boundary data are not
                                                                   available and were not analyzed by us. For example, 79 additional refuges for which we did
                                                                   not have digital boundary data reported to the Refuge Management Information System that
                                                                   at least 1 transit pipeline crossed their refuges. These figures also do not include smaller
                                                                   pipelines that are used for gathering production from wells (called flow- or gathering lines).




                                                                   Page 15                                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                          Transit pipelines may also have associated storage facilities and pumping
                          stations, such as those we toured at Delta NWR in Louisiana (see fig. 3), but
                          data are not available to identify how many of these are on refuges.



                          Figure 3: Pipeline Storage and Loading Facilities, Delta NWR (La.)




                          Source: GAO.




Additional Wells and      A total of 4,795 wells and 84 transit pipelines reside just outside refuges,
Pipelines Are Located     within one-half mile of refuge boundaries. The 4,795 wells bound
                          123 refuges, 33 of which do not have any resident oil and gas wells.
within One-Half Mile of
                          The 84 pipelines are 186 miles long and border 42 different refuges.
Refuge Boundaries         While FWS does not own the land outside refuge boundaries, lands
                          surrounding refuges may be designated for future acquisition. For example,
                          at Deep Fork NWR in Oklahoma, 606 wells are within one-half mile outside
                          current boundaries, and some of this land is within approved boundaries
                          for future acquisition (see fig. 4).




                          Page 16                                     GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 4: Deep Fork NWR (Okla.) Current and Approved Acquisition Boundaries




   Deep Fork Refuge Boundary

            Approved boundary
            Refuge
            0.5 Mile buffer

Source: FWS and GAO.




Page 17                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Overall Effects of          The overall environmental effects of oil and gas activities on refuge
                            resources are unknown because FWS has conducted few cumulative
Oil and Gas Activities      assessments and has no comprehensive data. Available information
Are Unknown,                indicates that refuge wildlife and habitat have been harmed to varying
                            degrees by spills of oil, gas, brine,18 and industrial materials as well as
but Those Activities        through the construction, operation, and maintenance of the infrastructure
Have Diminished             necessary to produce oil and gas. Routine oil and gas activities can
Some Refuge System          contaminate a refuge and reduce the quantity and quality of habitat
                            available for wildlife. Over the years, new environmental laws and
Resources                   improved industry practices and technology have reduced some of the
                            most detrimental effects of oil and gas activities; however, some harm
                            to refuges continues to occur and some effects from earlier events have
                            not been reversed and continue to diminish refuge resources. In addition,
                            oil and gas operators have taken steps, in some cases voluntarily, to
                            reverse damages resulting from oil and gas activities, but operators have
                            not consistently taken such steps and the adequacy of these steps is not
                            known. FWS does not have an accurate record of the number of spills
                            on refuges and has conducted few studies on the effects of refuge-based
                            oil and gas activities and, therefore, does not know the full extent of the
                            problem or the steps needed to reverse them.



Oil and Gas Activities      Available studies, anecdotal information, and our observations show
Have, to Varying Degrees,   that some refuge resources have been diminished to varying degrees by
                            spills of oil, gas, and brine and through the construction, operation, and
Diminished Refuge
                            maintenance of the infrastructure necessary to extract oil and gas. The
System Resources            damage varies widely in severity, duration, and visibility, ranging from
                            infrequent small oil spills and industrial debris with no known effect on
                            wildlife, to large and chronic spills causing wildlife deaths and long-term
                            soil and water contamination. Some damage, such as habitat loss because
                            of infrastructure development and soil and water contamination, may
                            last indefinitely while other damage, such as wildlife disturbance during
                            seismic mapping, is of shorter duration. Also, while certain types of
                            damage are readily visible, others, such as groundwater contamination and
                            reduced habitat quality from infrastructure development, are difficult to
                            observe, quantify, and associate directly with oil and gas activities. Finally,
                            oil and gas activities may hinder FWS’s ability to manage or improve refuge



                            18
                                 Brine is water mixed with salts, other minerals, and oil.




                            Page 18                                             GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
         habitat, such as seasonal flooding of wetlands or prescribed burns, or
         hinder public access to parts of the refuge.

Spills   Spills of oil, gas, and brine have harmed refuge wildlife and habitat. Oil
         and gas can injure or kill wildlife by destroying the insulating capacity of
         feathers and fur, depleting oxygen available in water, or exposing wildlife
         to toxic substances. Long-term effects of oil and gas contamination are
         difficult to determine, but studies suggest that effects of exposure include
         reduced fertility, kidney and liver damage, immune suppression, and
         cancer. Even small spills may contaminate soil and sediments if they
         occur frequently. For instance, a study of Atchafalaya and Delta NWRs in
         Louisiana found that levels of oil contamination near oil and gas facilities
         are lethal to most species of wildlife, even though refuge staff were not
         aware of any large spills.19 Figure 5 shows an ongoing clean up of a
         relatively small oil spill that occurred at Delta NWR in 2002. Brine spills
         can also be lethal to young waterfowl, damage birds’ feathers, kill
         vegetation, and decrease nutrients in water. Based on well data from
         Premier Data Services, over 19.8 million gallons of brine were produced
         from active wells on NWRs during the most recent 12-month reporting
         period as of January 2003. Much of this brine was reinjected back into the
         ground to prevent surface damage.




         19
          North Carolina State University, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology,
         Chemical Contamination at National Wildlife Refuges in the Lower Mississippi River
         Ecosystem, February 2001, for the U.S. Department of the Interior.




         Page 19                                      GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 5: Ongoing Cleanup of Oil Spill at Delta NWR (La.)




Source: GAO.

Note: Absorbent pads and booms in foreground.


The 16 refuges we visited reported oil, gas, or brine spills, although the
frequency and effect of the spills varied widely. For instance, Hopper
Mountain NWR in California reported two oil spills in 1990, the only spills
since 1974, and refuge records indicated that the operator cleaned up each
spill quickly and that refuge staff detected no effect on wildlife. In contrast,
Anahuac NWR in Texas reported at least 7 oil spills since 1991, including
1 pipeline spill that killed over 800 large fish such as mullet and redfish
and over 180,000 menhaden, a small but ecologically important fish. FWS
officials said that natural gas leaks generally pose a lower risk to habitat
than oil spills, but a gas leak in 2000 at Sabine NWR in Louisiana killed
fish, crabs, and amphibians. Brine spills have also damaged refuges. For
example, Atchafalaya and D’Arbonne NWRs in Louisiana reported that
brine spills had killed vegetation in the area of the spill. At these refuges,
salt concentrations in the soil have remained high and continued to spread




Page 20                                         GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                 for decades after a spill, and some sites do not support vegetation
                 years afterwards.

                 The exact number and size of oil and gas spills on NWRs is not known.
                 Nationally, FWS reported that 348 oil and gas spills were located on or
                 near refuges during fiscal year 2002, although there are limitations to this
                 figure. First, it includes spills resulting from activities not associated with
                 oil and gas production or transit pipelines, such as shipping accidents.
                 Second, FWS calculated the number of spills by reviewing spill reports
                 from the National Response Center and other parties that did not always
                 identify if a refuge is affected. Third, not all spills are required to be
                 reported. Clean Water Act regulations require operators to report spills of
                 any quantity if they cause a sheen to form on waters subject to federal
                 jurisdiction.20 Other spills are subject to state reporting requirements,
                 which vary. For instance, Texas requires operators to report spills over
                 210 gallons, while Louisiana requires operators to report spills over
                 42 gallons. Finally, refuge staff told us that they knew of spills that
                 operators never reported.

Infrastructure   Constructing, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to
                 produce oil and gas can harm wildlife by reducing the quantity and quality
                 of habitat. At Kenai NWR in Alaska, for instance, oil and gas wells and
                 associated facilities have eliminated at least 524 acres of habitat, while
                 other infrastructure, such as access roads and pipelines, has eliminated an
                 additional 424 acres. While this loss of habitat represents a very small
                 proportion of total refuge acreage, refuge staff determined that it
                 eliminated food sources that would have supported between 41 and
                 136 cow moose and 411 snowshoe hares. In other instances, habitat lost
                 to infrastructure development is negligible—for example, the presence
                 of a wellhead or pipelines, such as the wellhead at Delta NWR shown in
                 figure 6.




                 20
                      40 C.F.R. § 110.3(b).




                 Page 21                                   GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 6: Wellhead at Delta NWR (La.)




Source:
Source:   GAO.
        GAO.



Infrastructure development can reduce the quality of habitat by
fragmenting it and, in some cases, by changing the hydrology of the
refuge ecosystem or contaminating it with toxic substances. Habitat
fragmentation occurs when a network of roads, canals, and other
infrastructure is constructed in previously undeveloped areas of a refuge.
Fragmentation increases disturbances from human activities, provides
pathways for predators, and helps spread nonnative plant species. For
example, the endangered California condor is particularly susceptible to
disturbances from human activities. Condors have been observed landing
on oil pads on the refuge, which poses a safety risk to the birds and reduces
their fear of humans. In addition, FWS estimated in 1980 that oil and gas
activities at Hopper Mountain NWR eliminated about 63 percent of the
potential feeding habitat for condors on the refuge. The current refuge
manager said that the effect of this loss on the condor population may
not be significant because the importance of the feeding habitat provided
by the refuge may not be as great as previously thought. Corridors that
oil and gas operators have developed assist predation—for example,
among songbirds, and allow a pathway for invasive species, a significant
management problem for FWS.21 Finally, officials at Anahuac and
McFaddin NWRs in Texas said that disturbances from oil and gas activities
are likely significant and expressed concern that bird nesting may be


21
 U.S. General Accounting Office, Invasive Species: Clearer Focus and Greater
Commitment Needed to Effectively Manage the Problem, GAO-03-1 (Washington, D.C.:
Oct. 22, 2002).




Page 22                                     GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
disrupted. However, no studies have been conducted at these refuges to
determine the effect of these disturbances.

Infrastructure networks can also damage refuge habitat by changing the
hydrology of the refuge ecosystem, particularly in coastal areas. For
instance, tens of thousands of acres of freshwater marsh at Sabine NWR,
and elsewhere in Louisiana and Texas, have been lost due to saltwater
intrusion. Saltwater intrusion may change the types of plants in the
marsh and can cause erosion that creates an open water habitat that
is less biologically productive than the marsh. While several factors
contribute to the saltwater intrusion, construction of canals to access oil
and gas facilities is considered by many scientists to be significant. Seismic
studies for oil and gas exploration in coastal marshes can also contribute
to saltwater intrusion. Seismic studies are typically conducted in a grid
pattern and may cover large portions of a refuge. Preparing and conducting
seismic studies may require heavy equipment that can compress the marsh,
which changes the plant community and could allow saltwater to intrude
into the marsh, particularly during droughts that decrease freshwater
flows. At McFaddin NWR, the grid pattern from a 1995 seismic study was
clearly visible from infrared aerial photographs taken after the seismic
study was completed (see fig. 7).




Page 23                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                             Figure 7: Compressed Marsh Grid from 3-D Seismic Study at McFaddin NWR (Tex.)




                             Source: FWS.

                             Note: Infrared photograph (1995).


                             Moreover, industrial activities associated with extracting oil and gas have
                             been found to contaminate wildlife refuges with toxic substances such
                             as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). D’Arbonne, Kenai, and
                             Upper Ouachita (Louisiana) NWRs reported mercury contamination, and
                             Kenai NWR reported PCB contamination from oil and gas activities that
                             must still be cleaned up by FWS if the responsible parties cannot be
                             found. Mercury and PCBs were used in equipment such as compressors,
                             transformers, and well production meters, although generally they are no
                             longer used. Mercury has been linked to brain, kidney, and reproductive
                             system damage, and PCBs are known animal carcinogens.



Legal and Industry Changes   New laws prohibiting some of the most harmful industry practices have
Have Reduced Some of the     helped diminish the adverse effect of current and recent oil and gas
                             activities on refuge resources. For example, Louisiana now generally
Environmental Effects of
                             prohibits using open pits to store production wastes and brine in coastal
Oil and Gas Activities       areas or discharging brine into drainages or state waters. Another example
                             is Texas, which requires operators to install screens or nets over open
                             tanks and pits to protect birds from contacting hazardous fluids. Texas also
                             now requires operators to remove oil and gas infrastructure, such as tanks,



                             Page 24                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                          which will not be actively used in the continuing operation of a lease and to
                          contour closed sites to reduce water contamination.

                          Improvements in industry practice, including improved technology,
                          have also reduced the damage caused by oil and gas activities. For
                          example, where feasible, directional drilling allows (1) operators to
                          avoid placing wells in sensitive areas such as wetlands and (2) several
                          wells to be drilled from the same pad, thus reducing the amount of habitat
                          damaged. Another example is improved geologic mapping through 3-D
                          seismic technology. While 3-D seismic studies require more vehicle traffic
                          and may damage more vegetation than 2-D studies, improved geologic
                          mapping may reduce the number of wells drilled that do not produce oil or
                          gas and ultimately reduce the amount of habitat damaged. Furthermore,
                          the impact of 3-D seismic studies has been reduced through other
                          improvements, including using vehicles less damaging to the surface,
                          reducing the number of vehicle trips necessary, hand carrying seismic lines
                          to avoid vehicle damage altogether, and scheduling seismic operations to
                          avoid sensitive times.

                          While the relative impacts of the activities have been reduced in
                          recent years, the effects have not been eliminated. For instance, oil and
                          gas infrastructure continues to diminish availability of refuge habitat for
                          wildlife, and spills of oil, gas, and brine that damage fish and wildlife
                          continue to occur. In addition, several refuge managers reported that
                          operators do not always comply with legal requirements or follow best
                          industry practices such as constructing berms (earthen barriers) around
                          tanks to contain spills, covering tanks to protect wildlife, and removing pits
                          that temporarily store fluids used during well maintenance.



Reversing Environmental   Environmental damage from oil and gas activities may be partially reversed
Damages Is Inconsistent   by remediating contamination or by reclaiming a site to its prior condition
                          after oil and gas activities cease. However, oil and gas operators have not
                          consistently taken steps to reverse environmental damages that have
                          occurred from oil and gas activities on NWRs. In some cases, officials do
                          not know if remediation following spills is sufficient to protect refuge
                          resources, particularly for smaller oil spills or spills into wetlands. In other
                          cases, FWS has been satisfied with the response. According to refuge
                          officials and industry representatives, when small oil spills occur, operators
                          may contain the oil and then remove the oil and the contaminated soil, but
                          in some cases operators leave the oil and cover it with dirt. In contrast, the
                          effects of larger spills may be evaluated systematically and remediated by



                          Page 25                                   GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
the operator. For example, in 2000, a ruptured pipeline spilled nearly
200,000 gallons of crude oil at John Heinz NWR in Pennsylvania, damaging
several species of wildlife and covering a frozen pond. In response, the
operator removed the oil and the contaminated soil, replanted damaged
vegetation, funded scientific studies to determine the effect on refuge
wildlife, compensated the refuge for the value lost to visitors during the
spill; and the operator is negotiating with FWS to identify an appropriate
restoration project to compensate for the ecologic value of refuge
resources lost while the refuge recovers from the spill.

Similar to spill remediation, reclamation of oil and gas facilities following
their use is also inconsistent. For instance, an operator at McFaddin NWR
removed a road and a well pad that had been constructed to access a new
well site and restored the marsh damaged by construction after the well
was no longer needed. Figure 8 provides an aerial view of the road and the
well pad shortly after they were constructed and a photo of the same site
following reclamation. Other refuges, however, reported that storage tanks,
debris, and access roads remained long after use (see fig. 9). Refuge staff
cited several reasons for some sites not being reclaimed, including
difficulty identifying the responsible parties, operator insolvency, potential
future use because other locations in the same field remained in operation,
and uncertainty of their authority to require operators to reclaim sites.
Finally, several states do not require operators to reverse the effects of oil
and gas activities.22 For instance, Texas law does not require operators to
remove all buried flowlines or access roads. Several states, such as
Oklahoma and Texas, have established programs to clean up abandoned oil
and gas sites, but funds are limited.




22
  For a comparison of state reclamation requirements, see U.S. General Accounting Office,
Alaska’s North Slope: Requirements for Restoring Lands after Oil Production Ceases,
GAO-02-357 (Washington, D.C.: June 5, 2002).




Page 26                                        GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 8: Site Restoration at McFaddin NWR (Tex.)




Sources: FWS (above); GAO (below).

Note: Location of well site before (1996) and after restoration (2002).




Page 27                                                GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 9: Examples of Unreclaimed Infrastructure on NWRs




Sources: GAO (above); GAO (below).

Notes:
Exposed and abandoned flowlines at Anahuac NWR (Tex.) (above).
Abandoned tank battery at Deep Fork NWR (Okla.) (below).




Page 28                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                           Because operators do not consistently or entirely reverse environmental
                           damages resulting from oil and gas activities, FWS has had to clean up sites
                           at its expense or leave sites unreclaimed. FWS spent $387,100 to clean up
                           14 oil- or gas-related sites between fiscal years 1991 and 2002 and is
                           planning to spend an additional $108,000 at 3 sites in fiscal year 2003. These
                           cleanup projects included removing oil- and gas-related debris, plugging
                           unused gas wells, and addressing mercury contamination at 9 refuges in
                           Arkansas and Louisiana. Other sites remain to be addressed. There are
                           2,600 inactive wells on refuges, including an unknown number that have
                           been abandoned but not plugged, and some sites also have unused tanks,
                           flowlines, and debris that should be removed. The estimated cost of
                           cleanup at a site at Anahuac NWR is $1.1 million and currently is deferred
                           until fiscal year 2009. Refuge managers at some refuges we visited
                           expressed concern that as oil and gas production declines, operators will
                           abandon more infrastructure and FWS will have to reclaim these sites.



FWS Documentation of       FWS has conducted few studies to quantify the extent of the damage
Environmental Effects Is   caused by oil and gas activities. FWS identifies and assesses contaminant
                           threats to refuges by conducting Contaminant Assessment Process (CAP)
Limited and Inconsistent   studies and other studies of contamination. Although CAP studies are
                           FWS’s primary formal mechanism for identifying potential sources of
                           contaminants on refuges, the studies do not quantify the extent of any
                           contamination or its biological effects. Moreover, CAP studies have not
                           been conducted at all refuges with oil and gas activities, including
                           many refuges that have significant activities. FWS established the CAP
                           process in 1996, and to date studies have been completed at about
                           193 refuges (about 34 percent of all refuges), including 67 of the
                           155 refuges (43 percent) with oil and gas activities. The number of refuges
                           with oil and gas activities that have completed CAP studies varies by
                           region. For instance, in Region 2, which includes Texas, 20 of 28 refuges
                           (71 percent) had completed CAP studies, while in Region 4, which includes
                           Louisiana, 11 of 45 (24 percent) had completed CAP studies. The national
                           coordinator for CAP said that the studies are sequenced to coincide with
                           each refuge’s comprehensive conservation planning process, which, in
                           turn, is prioritized within each region based on factors including primary
                           threats, staffing levels, and funding. Finally, the comprehensiveness of the
                           studies varies widely. The CAP for Kenai NWR lists over 330 known spills
                           and describes other potential contamination sources from oil and gas
                           activities. In contrast, the CAP study for Deep Fork NWR did not list oil and
                           gas activities as a potential source of contamination, even though there are
                           over 360 wells on the refuge and the refuge’s comprehensive conservation



                           Page 29                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
plan previously identified concerns over oil and gas activities, including
unplugged wells. The CAP program manager stated that, in this case,
FWS staff did not follow the procedures established in the CAP manual,
which requires that all potential sources of contamination be identified.

If contaminants are identified at a refuge, FWS may conduct additional
studies through its contaminants program. Since 1988, FWS has funded
at least 33 studies at 47 national wildlife refuges nationwide that have
examined the effects of oil and gas activities.23 The scope of the studies
ranged from general investigations to document the presence and
concentration of a variety of contaminants, including those associated
with oil and gas activities, to specific studies to examine the impact of
oil and gas activities on particular refuges. In some cases, contamination
concerns identified in a general investigation may lead to a more detailed
study. For instance, a contaminants survey at Hagerman NWR identified
contaminants from oil and gas activities, but the survey was insufficient
to determine the effects on fish and wildlife. A later study determined
that brine and oil contaminant levels did not appear to be of concern.

In addition to conducting its own studies, FWS uses studies conducted by
other government agencies and universities, in some cases at its request.
For instance, the U.S. Geological Survey is studying the effects of a 3-D
seismic study at Sabine NWR to determine the long-term effects of seismic
activities on refuge plant species, and Drexel University is studying the
impact of an oil spill on wildlife at John Heinz NWR, including any effects
on a rare turtle species.

The lack of information on the effects of oil and gas activities on refuge
wildlife hinders FWS’s ability to identify and obtain appropriate mitigation
measures and to require responsible parties to address damages from
past activities. For instance, the Chief, Division of Environmental Quality,
stated that FWS does not always know the effects of oil and gas activities
on wildlife or habitat and, therefore, does not know what actions should
be required of operators to reduce those effects. Lack of sufficient
information has also hindered FWS’s efforts to identify all locations
with past oil and gas activities and to require responsible parties to
address damages. FWS does not know the number or location of all


23
  Some of the 33 studies examined the effects of oil and gas contamination resulting from
activities that are outside the scope of GAO’s study, such as activities occurring outside of
the refuge.




Page 30                                          GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                       abandoned wells and other oil and gas infrastructure or the threat of
                       contamination they pose and, therefore, its ability to require responsible
                       parties to address damages is limited. While recognizing the value of this
                       type of information, the Chief, Division of Environmental Quality, said that
                       in some cases FWS lacked the budget to fund environmental studies and
                       that, in other cases, the cost of obtaining the information was
                       disproportionate to its management value. In those cases where FWS
                       has performed studies, the information has proved valuable. For example,
                       FWS funded a study at some refuges in Oklahoma and Texas to inventory
                       locations containing oil and gas infrastructure, to determine if they were
                       closed legally, and to document their present condition. FWS intends to
                       use this information to identify cleanup options with state and federal
                       regulators. If this effort is successful, FWS may conduct similar studies on
                       other refuges. In other cases, refuges have requested studies that have not
                       been funded. For instance, proposals to examine the effects of oil and gas
                       activities on a wetland management district in Montana and to identify
                       unknown oil and gas locations at Kenai NWR have not been approved, in
                       part, due to lack of funds. In the case of Kenai NWR, refuge staff said that
                       current operators may be responsible for cleaning up historic sites but that
                       FWS had to identify the sites before it could make this determination.



FWS Management         FWS’s management and oversight of oil and gas activities varies widely
                       from refuge to refuge. Effectively managing these activities across the
and Oversight of Oil   refuge system would entail, at a minimum, identifying the risks posed by
and Gas Activities     the activities, establishing operating conditions to minimize damages, and
                       monitoring the activities with trained staff to ensure compliance. While
Varies Widely          some refuges have adopted comprehensive management and oversight
                       practices, others have done little. Variation in refuges’ management and
                       oversight of oil and gas activities stems from differences in FWS’s
                       regulatory authority depending upon the nature of the mineral rights and
                       from inadequate guidance, resources, and training for refuge staff. In
                       addition, on a related management issue, FWS’s policy requiring a complete
                       and thorough assessment of potentially contaminated property prior to
                       acquisition is not always adhered to because of inconsistent interpretation
                       of the requirements by FWS, placing the federal government at risk of
                       assuming unknown cleanup costs in the future.




                       Page 31                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Management and Oversight   FWS’s objective in managing oil and gas on refuge lands is to protect
Varies Among Refuges       wildlife habitat and other resources while allowing oil and gas operators
                           to exercise their mineral rights. Meeting this objective requires basic
                           management controls. Under the Federal Manager’s Financial Integrity
                           Act of 1982,24 we have issued management control standards that apply
                           to all federal agencies.25 These standards require agencies to identify risks,
                           develop procedures to protect against these risks, and monitor adherence
                           to the procedures. For refuges, doing so would mean identifying the nature
                           and extent of oil and gas activities on a refuge and the risks they pose to
                           refuge resources, adopting risk-reduction procedures such as issuing
                           access permits with conditions to protect refuge resources and securing
                           financial assurance that reclamation will occur, and overseeing oil and gas
                           operations with trained and dedicated staff to ensure compliance with laws
                           and permits.

                           The refuges we examined varied in the extent to which they identified
                           risks, adopted procedures to minimize those risks, and monitored oil and
                           gas activities. First, some refuge staff did not have complete information on
                           the extent of oil and gas activities occurring on their refuges. For example,
                           at Deep Fork NWR refuge staff estimated that there were 600 or more
                           abandoned wells but knew the location of very few of these wells. Further,
                           as noted earlier, only 67 of the 155 refuges with oil and gas activities and
                           10 of the 16 refuges we visited (see table 6) had completed CAP studies
                           identifying the possible sources and types of contamination on the refuges.
                           In contrast, at Kenai NWR refuge staff had detailed information on oil and
                           gas wells and activities on the refuge, had completed an exhaustive CAP
                           study, and was completing an Environmental Impact Statement on the
                           effects of oil and gas activities.26




                           24
                                33 U.S.C. § 3512(c).
                           25
                            U.S. General Accounting Office, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
                           Government, GAO/AIMD-00-2131 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1999).
                           26
                              Swanson River Satellites: Natural Gas Exploration and Development Project, Draft
                           Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—Alaska Region, July 2002.




                           Page 32                                       GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Table 6: Elements of Management and Oversight Found at Refuges Visited

                                                                       Issue permits with
                                                  CAP study           conditions to protect
Refuges Visited by GAO   State    FWS region      completed             refuge resources          Require bonds Number of staff
Hopper Mountain NWR      Calif.              1         x
Deep Fork NWR            Okla.               2         x
Hagerman NWR             Tex.                2         x                         xa
Anahuac NWR              Tex.                2         x                         x
McFaddin NWR             Tex.                2         x                         x
Patoka River NWR         Ind.                3
Delta NWR                La.                 4                                   x                       xb                  x
Atchafalya NWR           La.                 4         x                         x
Sabine NWR               La.                 4                                   x                                           x
D’Arbonne NWR            La.                 4
Upper Ouachita NWR       La.                 4
John Heinz NWR           Pa.                 5                                   x
Medicine Lake NWR        Mont.               6         x                         xa                      xb
J. Clark Salyer NWR      N.Dak.              6         x                         xa                      xb
                                                                                  a
Upper Souris NWR         N.Dak.              6         x                         x                       xb
Kenai NWR                Alaska              7         x                         x                        x           One-half time
Total                    16                  7         10                        11                      5                 2.5
Source: GAO.
                                        a
                                         The Bureau of Land Management or the Army Corps of Engineers issues these federal permits.
                                        b
                                         The Bureau of Land Management requires these federal bonds.




                                        Page 33                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Second, permits, which grant oil and gas operators access to specified
areas of a refuge and contain conditions to protect refuge resources, such
as seasonal or vehicle restrictions, to protect air quality, soil, water and
wildlife habitat, were applied to varying degrees at 11 of the 16 refuges we
visited.27 FWS can require permits if the mineral rights are federally owned,
the property deed allows it to, or the operator voluntarily agreed to one.
In the other five cases, refuge staff did not believe they had authority to
require permits. In addition, five refuges obtained financial assurance in
the form of bonds for the future costs of reclamation, or rely on bonds
administered by another federal agency. The other 11 refuges rely instead
on state bonds, which are allowed under FWS guidance, but may provide
different degrees of financial assurance than federal bonds. For example,
the bonds in some states may or may not cover damages caused by oil
and gas activities if the effects are considered to be reasonable impacts
to the land. Reasonable impacts are not consistently defined among
states because impacts to property are determined by what is usual and
customary practice in the area.

Finally, we found little correlation between the scale of oil and gas
activities on refuges and the presence of dedicated staff to oversee them.
Two of the refuges we visited have a fully dedicated staff person to oversee
oil and gas operators—two of the only three in the entire refuge system.
These two refuges in Louisiana collect fees from operators to help pay for
these staff. In contrast, refuges with greater levels of activity do not have
dedicated staff.




27
  Although FWS does not have regulations requiring private mineral rights owners to
obtain permits before conducting oil and gas operations, it does have a permitting process
(set forth in the FWS manual) that applies to private mineral rights owners whose deeds
subject them to permitting requirements; to private mineral rights owners who agree to be
bound by a permit, even though their deeds do not subject them to permits; and to others.




Page 34                                         GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
FWS’s Authority to        FWS’s legal authority to require oil and gas operators to obtain permits
Require Permits Varies,   varies considerably, depending upon the nature of the mineral rights.
                          Permits granting access to specified areas of a refuge can be used to
Depending on the Nature   establish reasonable operating conditions for private mineral owners to
of the Mineral Rights     exercise their rights while protecting refuge resources.28 Variation in
                          authority to require such permits, and the uncertainty that this sometimes
                          creates among refuge staff, partly accounts for differences in management
                          and oversight we found at refuges. At one end of the spectrum, FWS has
                          broad authority to deny or regulate access to oil and gas on wildlife refuges
                          when the federal government owns the mineral rights. Under Department
                          of the Interior regulations, access to federal mineral rights
                          underlying refuges requires the approval of the Secretary of the Interior
                          with the concurrence of FWS as to the time, place, and nature of the
                          activities.29 These regulations also prohibit leasing of federal minerals
                          on refuges outside of Alaska, except in cases where federal minerals are
                          being drained by operations on property adjacent to the refuges.




                          28
                            In determining what conditions to place in a permit, FWS, like other federal regulatory
                          agencies, must consider the potential applicability of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S.
                          Constitution. The Fifth Amendment prohibits the federal government from taking
                          private property for public use without justly compensating the private property owner.
                          Government regulation may place restrictions on the use of property to the extent that it
                          deprives the owner of its use or economic value. In such cases of “regulatory taking,” the
                          owner may be entitled to just compensation under the Fifth Amendment. Thus, if a permit
                          “regulated” the mineral rights to the point that they were deemed to be taken, FWS would
                          have to compensate the owner. See, e.g., Foster v. United States, 607 F.2d 943 (Ct. Cl. 1979)
                          (government’s refusal to allow permit holders of mineral interest on government land any
                          right of access for the purpose of extracting minerals was a compensable taking).
                          29
                               43 C.F. R. § 3101.5-1.




                          Page 35                                          GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
In contrast, FWS’s authority is not nearly as broad or as clear with respect
to private owners of mineral rights. FWS’s authority to require permits from
private mineral owners depends on the nature of the private rights and, in
some cases, whether the property deed contains specific language. Private
mineral rights may be either “reserved” or “outstanding.” Reserved rights
are created when the property owner retains the mineral rights at the time
that the surface property is transferred to the federal government.
Outstanding rights are created when the mineral rights are severed from
the surface lands prior to the surface property’s transfer to the federal
government and, thus, a third party owns the rights. FWS’s authority to
regulate oil and gas activities of private owners of reserved mineral rights is
limited under current law.30 The Department of the Interior takes the
position, with which we agree, that FWS can require permits for reserved
rights only if the deed transferring surface ownership to the federal
government contains language that subjects these rights to permitting
requirements. The department’s position was first expressed in a 1986
opinion by the Office of the Solicitor, which, that office recently advised
us, continues to reflect the department’s position. The department’s
position is largely based on a section of the Migratory Bird Conservation
Act that makes reserved rights subject to government regulation if the deed
includes specific requirements, such as permitting requirements, or states
that the rights are subject to regulations prescribed by the Department
“from time to time.”31 Any expansion of FWS’s authority over the owners
of reserved mineral rights, to include cases in which deeds do not contain
such provisions, would thus require a change in the law.

By contrast, it does not appear that the Department of the Interior has
taken a formal position, and the Solicitor’s Office recently declined to take
a position, regarding FWS’s authority to require a permit for private owners
of outstanding mineral rights. The Solicitor’s Office advised us that it would
only provide an opinion on FWS’s authority over outstanding mineral rights
if FWS requested one. Nonetheless, we believe that FWS has broad general
authority, similar to that of the Forest Service and the National Park
Service, to require owners exercising outstanding mineral rights to obtain




30
  Appendix III contains a more detailed legal analysis of FWS’s authority to require permits
for both reserved and outstanding rights owners.
31
     16 U.S.C. § 715e.




Page 36                                         GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
permits that contain conditions to protect a refuge and its wildlife. Both
amendments to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
of 1966 (1966 Act) and court decisions since the department issued its
1986 opinion support this conclusion. The National Wildlife System
Improvement Act of 199732 (1997 Act) amended the 1966 Act to provide
for a more effective process for determining which secondary uses would
be compatible with refuges and to allow refuges to be managed more like
national forests and parks.33 The 1997 Act established as a mission of the
National Wildlife Refuge System “conservation, management, and where
appropriate, restoration of [fish and wildlife] for the benefit of present and
future generations of Americans.” In separate cases involving the Forest
Service and the National Park Service, federal courts relied on language
similar to that in the 1997 Act to find that these agencies had authority to
require private owners of outstanding mineral rights to obtain permits
before conducting oil and gas activities.34 We believe the same conclusion
follows with respect to FWS’s authority.

As a result of these differences in legal authority, there is a considerable
gap in FWS’s management and oversight of oil and gas activities, but
neither FWS nor we know precisely at how many refuges this is occurring.
Because some refuges may consist of hundreds of individual deeds, it is not
possible without considerable investigation to determine the relative
prevalence of reserved and outstanding mineral rights or the extent to
which property deeds allow FWS to require owners of reserved mineral
rights to obtain a permit, according to FWS officials. FWS officials also said
that differences in FWS’s authority to require permits do not provide for a
consistent way of managing and overseeing oil and gas activities.




32
     Pub. L. No. 105-57, 111 Stat. 1252 (1997).
33
     H.R. Rep. No. 105-106, at 2-3 (1997).
34
   See Duncan Energy Co. v. United States Forest Service, 50 F.3d 584 (8th Cir. 1995); Dunn
McCampbell Royalty Interest, Inc. v. National Park Service, 964 F. Supp. 1125 (S.D. Tex.
1995), aff’d on other grounds, 112 F.3d 1283 (5th Cir. 1997).




Page 37                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Refuges Lack Sufficient   In addition to FWS’s inconsistent or undefined authority to require permits
Guidance, Resources,      and oversee oil and gas activities, FWS cannot improve its management
                          and oversight of those activities without better guidance, resources, and
and Training to Manage    training. According to refuge managers and officials in the Department of
and Oversee Oil and       the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor, national guidance is insufficient for
Gas Activities            refuge staff to know what authority they have to manage oil and gas
                          activities, or how to carry out that authority. To supplement the national
                          guidance, three of FWS’s seven regions have developed more detailed
                          guidance to assist in managing and overseeing oil and gas activities. For
                          instance, while the national guidance describes only FWS’s authority to
                          require permits, guidance in Regions 2 and 6 provides specific examples of
                          conditions the refuge manager should include in a permit to protect refuge
                          resources. Staff at Sabine NWR have also drafted, in conjunction with
                          headquarters staff, more detailed national guidance on managing and
                          overseeing oil and gas activities, including a detailed description of FWS’s
                          authority to require permits and many specific conditions to include in
                          permits. However, FWS has not approved this draft guidance.

                          Refuge staff we interviewed also cited a lack of staff resources as an
                          obstacle to properly managing oil and gas activities because staff do not
                          have time to become familiar with federal and state laws or manage and
                          oversee oil and gas operations. For example, when FWS purchased
                          property for Deep Fork NWR, the property deed contained assurances that
                          FWS would be able to issue permits governing private mineral rights, yet
                          that information was never conveyed to refuge staff. To determine FWS’s
                          permitting authority, refuge staff would have to research each individual
                          property deed. Refuge staff said that they do not have time to do this
                          research because they must address other management concerns, such as
                          law enforcement. In contrast, Sabine NWR has a staff person dedicated to
                          managing oil and gas activities. As a result, this person has sufficient time
                          to become familiar with applicable laws and to work with operators and
                          state regulators to manage and oversee oil and gas activities to reduce their
                          effects on the refuge. This oversight has encouraged the operator to
                          identify and restore sites damaged by past oil and gas activities.




                          Page 38                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Refuges that have access to their own funding mechanisms to recover
damages are better able to manage and oversee oil and gas activities. It is
standard industry practice for operators’ conducting seismic activities to
pay exploratory fees to surface landowners. However, only refuges in
Louisiana and Texas have authority to assess and retain such fees to
cover potential damages caused by seismic activity.35 Refuges in
Louisiana routinely collect these fees to aid management and oversight
and fund restoration efforts, but Region 2 has retained existing policy
preventing refuges in Texas from assessing these fees. To address this
lack of consistency, FWS headquarters officials told us they are drafting
guidance to clarify how these regions should apply their authority to collect
and retain fees. One of the refuges that collects these fees is Sabine NWR,
which uses these fees to fund a staff person specifically dedicated to the
management and oversight of oil and gas activities and to fund mitigation
projects to reduce the effect of oil and gas operations. Figure 10 shows a
recent mitigation project, funded by oil and gas operators at Sabine NWR,
that is designed to restore a marsh damaged by saltwater intrusion due in
part to earlier oil and gas activities. Officials in the Department of the
Interior’s Office of the Solicitor support the use of fees as a more efficient
mechanism than litigation to compensate for damages.




35
  Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2000, the Secretary of the Interior may retain
money paid by parties exercising private oil and gas rights for damages to refuge lands in
Texas and Louisiana, to be used to make damage assessments, mitigate or restore the
damages, and monitor and study the recovery of the resources. Pub. L. No. 106-113,
113 Stat. 1501A-140 (1999).




Page 39                                         GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Figure 10: Marsh Restoration Project Funded by Oil and Gas Operators at
Sabine NWR (La.)




Source: GAO.




Trained staff are integral to effective oversight, yet refuge staff we met with
said their principal duties and training as wildlife managers do not prepare
them for managing oil and gas activities. FWS has offered only one
workshop in the last 10 years for refuge staff nationwide that is specific to
managing oil and gas activities on refuges. This 3-day workshop in June
2001, attended by 36 FWS officials, provided information on possible
sources of spills, effects of oil on wildlife, enforcement avenues, and
damage recovery; however, there was limited discussion of FWS’s
regulatory authority. Refuge staff lack training on standard industry
practices, state and federal laws, and identification of oil- and gas-related
problems. For example, at Atchafalaya NWR, the refuge manager has not
been able to enforce special use permits, citing a lack of training about
applicable state and federal laws.




Page 40                                   GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Acquired Property     FWS has not always thoroughly assessed property for possible
Is Not Always         contamination from oil and gas activities prior to its acquisition. The FWS
                      manual requires a thorough investigation of potential contamination prior
Adequately Assessed   to acquisition of any property so that the full present and future costs of
for Contamination     cleanup can be determined. However, some FWS regions have interpreted
                      the guidance more narrowly than others. As a result, FWS has not always
                      conducted a thorough investigation of properties to be acquired, resulting
                      in unexpected future cleanup costs.

                      FWS’s guidance requires a complete environmental site assessment to
                      determine “the likelihood of the presence of hazardous substances or other
                      environmental problems associated with the property and any remediation
                      or other clean up costs.” According to FWS contaminant and realty
                      officials, a thorough investigation as required by the FWS manual would
                      include an assessment of both the surface and subsurface properties for
                      contamination. Some regions consistently conduct adequate assessments,
                      while other regions’ investigations are not as thorough. For example,
                      Region 6 assesses both the subsurface and surface properties for
                      contamination, even when acquiring only the surface portion. In two
                      cases, Region 6 did not acquire property, even when offered as a
                      donation, because of subsurface contamination from oil and gas activities.
                      In contrast, FWS Regions 2, 3, and 4 do not always thoroughly investigate
                      all properties for contamination prior to acquisition. For example, not
                      examining the subsurface soils for contamination or investigating further
                      if there is some indication of the presence of contaminants. FWS realty
                      officials told us that the acquisition guidance needs to be clarified and that
                      the oversight of regional implementation needs to be improved to ensure
                      that all new property is thoroughly investigated for contamination.

                      In one instance, FWS acquired property that is contaminated from oil and
                      gas activities and is now paying unexpected cleanup costs because staff
                      did not conduct an adequate assessment of the subsurface property prior
                      to acquisition. At the Patoka River NWR in Indiana (Region 3), during an
                      acquisition, FWS staff conducted an initial contamination investigation
                      and used a state certification of well closure as assurance that the land
                      was cleaned and closed and did not investigate further, even though they
                      were aware that the land had contained oil wells and an oil storage facility.
                      After acquiring the property, FWS found that large amounts of soil were
                      contaminated with oil. FWS has thus far spent $15,000 and a local
                      conservation group spent another $43,000 cleaning up contaminated soil.




                      Page 41                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Conclusions   The National Wildlife Refuge System is a national asset established
              principally for the conservation of wildlife and habitat. While federally
              owned mineral rights underlying refuge lands are generally not available
              for oil and gas exploration and production, that prohibition does not
              extend to the many private parties that own mineral rights underlying
              refuge lands. The scale of these activities on refuges is such that some
              refuge resources have been diminished, although the extent is unknown
              without additional study.

              Some refuges have adopted practices—for example, developing data
              on the nature and extent of activities and their effects on the refuge,
              overseeing oil and gas operators, and training refuge staff to better
              carry out their management and oversight responsibilities—that limit
              the impact of these activities on refuge resources. If these practices were
              implemented throughout the agency, they could provide better assurance
              that environmental effects from oil and gas activities are minimized. In
              particular, in some cases, refuges have issued permits that establish
              operating conditions for oil and gas activities, giving the refuges greater
              control over these activities and protecting refuge resources before
              damage occurs. However, FWS does not have a policy requiring owners
              of outstanding mineral rights to obtain a permit, although we believe
              FWS has this authority, and FWS can require owners of reserved mineral
              rights to obtain a permit if the property deed subjects the rights to such
              requirements. Expanding or confirming FWS’s authority to require
              reasonable permit conditions and oversee oil and gas activities, including
              cases where mineral rights have been reserved and the property deed does
              not already subject the rights to permit requirements, would strengthen
              and provide greater consistency in FWS’s management and oversight. Such
              a step could be done without infringing on the rights of private mineral
              owners. Finally, FWS’s land acquisition guidance is unclear and oversight is
              inadequate, thereby exposing the federal government to unexpected
              cleanup costs for properties acquired without adequately assessing
              contamination from oil and gas activities.




              Page 42                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Recommendations for   To improve the framework for managing and overseeing oil and gas
                      activities on national wildlife refuges, the Secretary of the Interior
Executive Action      should direct the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to take the
                      following steps:

                      • Collect and maintain better data on the nature and extent of oil and gas
                        activities and the effects of these activities on refuge resources.

                      • Determine what level of staffing is necessary to adequately oversee oil
                        and gas operators and seek necessary funding to meet those needs,
                        through appropriations, the authority to assess fees, or other means.

                      • Ensure that staff are adequately trained to oversee oil and gas activities.

                      • Clarify guidance and better oversee FWS’s land acquisition process so
                        that all hazardous substances and environmental problems and future
                        cleanup costs are fully identified prior to acquisition and unexpected
                        costs are avoided.

                      As part of the process of improving the framework for managing and
                      overseeing oil and gas activities on national wildlife refuges, we further
                      recommend that the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the Fish
                      and Wildlife Service work with the Department of the Interior’s Office of
                      the Solicitor to (1) determine FWS’s existing authority to issue permits and
                      set reasonable conditions regarding outstanding mineral rights, reporting
                      the results of its determination to Congress, and (2) seek from Congress, in
                      coordination with appropriate Administration officials, including those
                      within the Executive Office of the President, any necessary additional
                      authority over such rights, and over reserved mineral rights, so that FWS
                      can apply a consistent and reasonable set of regulatory and management
                      controls over all oil and gas activities occurring on national wildlife refuges
                      to protect the public’s surface interests.




                      Page 43                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Matter for            In light of the Department of the Interior’s perceived limitation to its ability
                      to seek expanded legislative authority over private mineral rights, Congress
Congressional         may wish to consider providing that authority. Ensuring that FWS has legal
Consideration         authority to issue permits to holders of both outstanding and reserved
                      mineral rights would improve FWS’s ability to consistently regulate and
                      oversee oil and gas operations on wildlife refuges.



Agency Comments and   We provided an opportunity for the Department of the Interior and
                      U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to review a draft of this report.
Our Evaluation        The comments of the department as expressed by the Acting Assistant
                      Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks were mixed. The department
                      agreed that FWS’s acquisition policy and guidance should be improved.
                      However, the department was silent on our recommendations that the FWS
                      should collect and maintain better data on oil and gas activities and their
                      effects and that it should ensure that staff are adequately trained to oversee
                      oil and gas activities. We continue to believe these recommendations are
                      still warranted. The department did raise a concern in regards to two of
                      our recommendations. First, the department questioned whether hiring
                      additional dedicated staff would be the most cost-effective solution to
                      improving oversight. However, the department apparently misinterpreted
                      our recommendation for FWS to determine what level of staffing necessary
                      to oversee these activities as a call to hire additional dedicated staff. If the
                      department determines that there are more cost-effective means to ensure
                      adequate staffing, such as the use of contractors or temporary staff, it could
                      pursue those actions and be responsive to this recommendation. Second,
                      while the department was silent on whether it would review the FWS’s
                      authority to regulate surface access to refuges for owners of outstanding
                      mineral rights, the department did raise concerns about GAO’s
                      recommendation that it seek additional authority from Congress to
                      regulate reserved mineral rights. According to the department, it would be
                      unconstitutional for it (as an executive branch department) to make such
                      a request to Congress, because doing so would infringe upon the
                      President’s authority to recommend legislation to Congress under the
                      U.S. Constitution’s Recommendations Clause. We fully anticipated in
                      making this draft recommendation that the department would coordinate
                      its legislative proposals with the President. In order to make this explicit,
                      we clarified the recommendation to recognize that the department
                      should coordinate its legislative request to Congress through appropriate
                      Administration officials, including those within the Executive Office of
                      the President.



                      Page 44                                   GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Further, as a legal matter, while the Recommendations Clause explicitly
provides for the President to make recommendations to Congress, it
does not deny that same freedom to others. The courts have ruled that
“. . . anyone can propose legislation.”36

The department also disagreed with our characterization of lost condor
habitat at Hooper Mountain NWR in California. The department asked that
we cite the source for this characterization and include additional
clarification and explanation of the effect of oil and gas activities on the
condor reintroduction program at this refuge. FWS itself, in 1980, made the
determination that 70 percent of critical condor habitat was lost due to oil
and gas development at Hopper Mountain NWR. However, this calculation
included both refuge and off-refuge lands. Considering only refuge lands,
lost habitat totaled 63 percent and the report has been revised accordingly.

In an attachment to the letter, the Department of the Interior raised
three additional concerns with our report. These involve our
characterizations of FWS’s land acquisition practices, our inclusion of oil
and gas pipelines in the scope of the report, and the significance of
problems associated with oil and gas activities. First, FWS concurred that
its acquisition policy and guidance could be improved and that regional
implementation has at times been inadequate. Nevertheless, FWS took
exception to our citing problems we found at Patoka River NWR and with
that region’s adherence to established policy in conducting its site
assessment. However, our review clearly indicated that the FWS failed to
conduct additional contamination investigation of lands that FWS officials
knew had supported oil and gas extraction and storage, as required by their
policy. As a result, the FWS acquired lands that are contaminated and has
incurred expenses to remediate that contamination.




36
  See Association of Am. Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. v. Clinton, 997 F.2d 898, 908
(D.C. Cir. 1993)(“The President has the undisputed authority to recommend legislation
but he need not exercise that authority with respect to any particular subject or, for
that matter, any subject . . .. [A]nyone in the country can propose legislation.”)
(emphasis added).




Page 45                                         GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Second, the department’s Office of the Solicitor raised a concern that
including oil and gas pipelines as an oil and gas activity overstates the
prevalence of oil and gas activities. We disagree; pipeline leaks have
contributed to refuge contamination and affected refuge operations in
other ways. We believe that inclusion of oil and gas pipelines on refuges is
an important factor in assessing the overall scale of oil and gas activities
on refuges. Nevertheless, we have added additional information to the
report that allows readers to differentiate among the types of activities
on refuges, including pipelines.

Third, the department’s Office of Policy Analysis expressed the view that
our reporting of refuge-based oil and gas activities not previously known to
FWS overstated the problem because we did not link these activities to
“significant detrimental” effects. The department also suggested that any
problems associated with oil and gas activities on refuges should be
considered relative to other problems faced by these refuges. However, our
report already states that FWS has not conducted a cumulative assessment
of the effects of oil and gas activities on individual refuges or the refuge
system as a whole. Identifying the presence of these activities should be the
first step toward any such assessment. Comparing these impacts relative to
other threats to refuges is outside the scope of this report.

Finally, the department included a number of technical comments from the
FWS and various department offices that have been incorporated within
the report as appropriate. The Department of the Interior’s letter and our
comments on the letter appear in appendix V.

We conducted our work from June 2002 through March 2003 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards. Appendix IV
contains details of our scope and methodology.




Page 46                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the
report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the Secretary
of the Interior and the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In addition, the report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at
http://www.gao.gov. If you have any questions about this report, please call
me at (202) 512-3841 or William Swick at (206) 287-4851. Key contributors
to this report are listed in appendix VI.




Barry T. Hill
Director, Natural Resources
 and Environment




Page 47                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix I

Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities                                                                                  AA
                                                                                                                      ppp
                                                                                                                        ep
                                                                                                                         ned
                                                                                                                           n
                                                                                                                           x
                                                                                                                           id
                                                                                                                            e
                                                                                                                            x
                                                                                                                            Iis




                                                                                        Exploration
Name                                FWS region   State    Active wells Inactive wells    activities     Pipelines
Alligator River National Wildlife
Refuge (NWR)                                4    N.C.               0               9        x
Anahuac NWR                                 2    Tex.              50              16                       x
Aransas NWR                                 2    Tex.              14              95        x              x
Arapaho NWR                                 6    Colo.              0               1
Arctic NWR                                  7    Alaska                                      x
Arrowwood NWR                               6    N.D.               0               1
Atchafalaya NWR                             4    La.                2              35        x              x
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR                2    Tex.               0              11        x              x
Audubon Wetland
Management District (WMD)                   6    N.D.                                        x
Bald Knob NWR                               4    Ark.               0               1                       x
Bayou Cocodrie NWR                          4    La.                0              36                       x
Bayou Sauvage NWR                           4    La.                0               4                       x
Bear Lake NWR                               1    Idaho              0               1
Benton Lake NWR                             6    Mont.                                                      x
Benton Lake WMD                             6    Mont.                                                      x
Big Boggy NWR                               2    Tex.               0               1        x              x
Big Branch Marsh NWR                        4    La.                0               4                       x
Big Oaks NWR                                3    Ind.               0               2
Bitter Creek NWR                            1    Calif.             0              11                       x
Bitter Lake NWR                             2    N.M.               0              28                       x
Black Bayou Lake NWR                        4    La.               20               6                       x
Bogue Chitto NWR                            4    La.                                                        x
Bosque del Apache NWR                       2    N.M.                                                       x
Bowdoin Lake NWR                            6    Mont.              0               2
Bowdoin WMD                                 6    Mont.                                       x              x
Brazoria NWR                                2    Tex.               4              25                       x
Breton NWR                                  4    La.                                         x              x
Buenos Aires NWR                            2    Ariz.              0               1
Buffalo Lake NWR                            2    Tex.                                                       x
Butte Sink Wildlife                                                 0               1
Management Area                             1    Calif.                                      x
Cache River NWR                             4    Ark.               0               6                       x
Cameron Prairie NWR                         4    La.                0              10        x              x




                                          Page 48                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                                       Appendix I
                                       Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities




(Continued From Previous Page)
                                                                                                 Exploration
Name                             FWS region   State                Active wells Inactive wells    activities     Pipelines
Canaan Valley NWR                        5    W.V.                            2              0        x              x
Carolina Sandhills NWR                   4    S.C.                                                                   x
Catahoula NWR                            4    La.                             8             49                       x
Choctaw NWR                              4    Ala.                             3             6                       x
Cibola NWR                               2    Ariz.                                                                  x
Colusa NWR                               1    Calif.                           0             2
Crab Orchard NWR                         3    Ill.                             0            20                       x
Crosby WMD                               6    N.D.                             9             3        x              x
Cypress Creek NWR                        3    Ill.                             0             4
Dahomey NWR                              4    Miss.                                                                  x
D’Arbonne NWR                            4    La.                             51            88                       x
Deep Fork NWR                            2    Okla.                           0           362                        x
Delevan NWR                              1    Calif.                           0             7
Delta NWR                                4    La.                            178          160         x              x
Des Lacs NWR                             6    N.D.                                                    x
Detroit Lakes WMD                        3    Minn.                                                                  x
Devils Lake WMD                          6    N.D.                             0             1
Egmont Key NWR                           4    Fla.                                                    x
Emiquon NWR                              3    Ill.                             0            12
Erie NWR                                 5    Penn.                            2             0                       x
Fallon NWR                               1    Nev.                             0             1
Felsenthal NWR                           4    Ark.                             0            60                       x
Flint Hills NWR                          6    Kans.                            3            10                       x
Florida Panther NWR                      4    Fla.                             0             1
Grand Bay NWR                            4    Miss.                                                                  x
Grand Cote NWR                           4    La.                              0             1                       x
Great Dismal Swamp NWR                   5    Va.                                                                    x
Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes
NWR                                      1    Calif.                           0             2
Guam NWR                                 1    Guam                                                    x
Hagerman NWR                             2    Tex.                            98            93        x              x
Hailstone NWR                            6    Mont.                            0             1
Halfbreed Lake NWR                       6    Mont.                           1              4                       x
Handy Brake NWR                          4    La.                                                                    x
Hatchie NWR                              4    Tenn.                                                                  x
Havasu NWR                               2    Ariz.                                                                  x
Hewitt Lake NWR                          6    Mont.                            3             2                       x




                                       Page 49                                       GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                                       Appendix I
                                       Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities




(Continued From Previous Page)
                                                                                                 Exploration
Name                             FWS region   State                Active wells Inactive wells    activities     Pipelines
Hillside NWR                             4    Miss.                           0              3
Hopper Mountain NWR                      1    Calif.                          15             2                       x
Humboldt Bay NWR                         1    Calif.                                                                 x
J. Clark Salyer NWR                      6    N.D.                            0             26                       x
J. Clark Salyer WMD                      6    N.D.                            1              2
John Heinz NWR                           5    Penn.                                                                  x
Kenai NWR                                7    Alaska                         121            43        x              x
Kern NWR                                 1    Calif.                           0             2                       x
Kirtlands Warbler NWR                    3    Mich.                           2             15        x              x
Kirwin NWR                               6    Kan.                            0              1
Kofa NWR                                 2    Ariz.                                                                  x
Lacassine NWR                            4    La.                             2             67        x              x
Laguna Atascosa NWR                      2    Tex.                             5             7                       x
Lake Mason NWR                           6    Mont.                           0              5
Lake Ophelia NWR                         4    La.                                                     x              x
Lake Thibadeau NWR                       6    Mont.                                                                  x
Leopold WMD                              3    Wisc.                                                                  x
Litchfield WMD                           3    Minn.                                                                  x
Little River NWR                         2    Okla.                           0              4
Lostwood WMD                             6    N.D.                             0             1        x
Louisiana WMD                            4    La.                                                                    x
Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR              2    Tex.                           65           152         x              x
Mandalay NWR                             4    La.                             5             34                       x
Mark Twain NWR                           3    Ill.                                                                   x
Matagorda Island NWR                     2    Tex.                                                                   x
Mathews Brake NWR                        4    Miss.                            0             1
Mattamuskeet NWR                         4    N.C.                             0             1
McFaddin NWR                             2    Tex.                            76            29                       x
Medicine Lake NWR                        6    Mont.                           2              2        x              x
Medicine Lake WMD                        6    Mont.                                                   x              x
Merced NWR                               1    Calif.                          0              1
Meredosia NWR                            3    Ill.                            0              1
Merritt Island NWR                       4    Fla.                                                                   x
Minnesota Valley NWR                     3    Minn.                                                                  x
Mississippi Sandhill Crane
NWR                                      4    Miss.                            0             1                       x
Mississippi WMD                          4    Miss.                                                                  x




                                       Page 50                                       GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                                       Appendix I
                                       Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities




(Continued From Previous Page)
                                                                                                 Exploration
Name                             FWS region   State                Active wells Inactive wells    activities     Pipelines
Montezuma NWR                            5    N.Y.                            0              1                       x
Moody NWR                                2    Tex.                                                                   x
Mortenson Lake NWR                       6    Wyo.                           0               1
Nisqually NWR                            1    Wash.                                                                  x
Ohio River Islands NWR                   5    W.V.                           11             10                       x
Optima NWR                               2    Okla.                           0             15                       x
Ouray NWR                                6    Utah                            2              5                       x
Overflow NWR                             4    Ark.                            0              2                       x
Panther Swamp NWR                        4    Miss.                           0             13                       x
Patoka River NWR                         3    Ind.                            0             54                       x
Pea Island NWR                           4    N.C.                                                    x
Pixley NWR                               1    Calif.                          0              1
Pond Creek NWR                           4    Ark.                                                                   x
Port Louisa NWR                          3    Iowa                                                                   x
Quivira NWR                              6    Kan.                           51             98        x              x
Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR               6    Colo.                           0              1                       x
Sabine NWR                               4    La.                             8             51        x              x
Sacramento River NWR                     1    Calif.                          1             14        x              x
Saddle Mountain NWR                      1    Wash.                           0             26
Salt Plains NWR                          2    Okla.                           0              9                       x
Salton Sea NWR                           1    Calif.                                                  x
San Bernard NWR                          2    Tex.                            3             16        x              x
San Luis NWR                             1    Calif.                          0              4
San Pablo Bay NWR                        1    Calif.                          0              1
Santa Ana NWR                            2    Tex.                            0              2
Seal Beach NWR                           1    Calif.                         15             15                       x
Sequoyah NWR                             2    Okla.                          0               2        x
Sherburne NWR                            3    Minn.                                                                  x
Shiawassee NWR                           3    Mich.                           0              4                       x
Squaw Creek NWR                          3    Mo.                             0              1
St. Catherine Creek NWR                  4    Miss.                          64           401         x              x
Stillwater NWR                           1    Nev.                            0              5
Stone Lakes NWR                          1    Calif.                          0              2                       x
Sutter NWR                               1    Calif.                          1              3        x              x
Ten Thousand Islands NWR                 4    Fla.                           0               1
Tensas River NWR                         4    La.                                                     x              x




                                       Page 51                                       GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                                                                     Appendix I
                                                                     Refuges with Oil and Gas Activities




(Continued From Previous Page)
                                                                                                                                          Exploration
Name                                                    FWS region              State                       Active wells Inactive wells    activities     Pipelines
Tetlin NWR                                                               7      Alaska                                                                        x
Texas Point NWR                                                          2      Tex.                                  0               3        x              x
Tishomingo NWR                                                           2      Okla.                                 0               6        x
Trinity River NWR                                                        2      Tex.                                  0               3        x              x
Upper Mississippi River NWR                                              3      Wisc.                                 0               1                       x
Upper Ouachita NWR                                                       4      La.                                 908            212         x              x
Upper Souris NWR                                                         6      N.D.                                  0              10        x              x
Washita NWR                                                              2      Okla.                                 0              10                       x
Wheeler NWR                                                              4      Ala.                                                           x              x
White River NWR                                                          4      Ark.                                                                          x
Whittlesey Creek NWR                                                     3      Wisc.                                                                         x
Willapa Bay NWR                                                          1      Wash.                                 0               1
Windom WMD                                                               3      Minn.                                                                         x
Yukon Delta NWR                                                          7      Alaska                                                         x
Yukon Flats NWR                                                          7      Alaska                                                         x
Total                                                                                                              1806           2600        44             107
Sources: Premier Data Services (well data), FWS (exploration and pipeline data), and DOT (pipeline data).




                                                                     Page 52                                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix II

Summary of Oil and Gas Activities at
Refuges Visited                                                                                                                               Appendx
                                                                                                                                                    Ii




                               Nature and extent of oil and
Refuge (State/FWS region)      gas activity                       Environmental effects                 Management and oversight
Hopper Mountain NWR (Calif./1) • 17 wells (15 active)             Feeding habitat for endangered        County issues conditional use
                               • 3 production pads                California condors on refuge          permits and works closely with
                               • Unknown number of flow lines     reduced by 63 percent. Minor          the Fish and Wildlife Service
                                                                  soil contamination from oil spills.   (FWS).
Deep Fork NWR (Okla./2)        • 362 wells                        Old and unused infrastructure         Although the property deed
                               • Unknown number of flow lines     and numerous unplugged wells.         stipulates that a special use
                                                                  Brine spills have killed              permit and bond are required,
                                                                  vegetation.                           the refuge does not require
                                                                                                        permits or bonds.
Hagerman NWR (Tex./2)          • 191 wells (98 active)            Old and unused infrastructure         All oil and gas activities are
                               • 5 production pads                and numerous unplugged wells.         permitted through the Army
                               • 2 transmission lines and                                               Corps of Engineers with
                                 several flow lines                                                     FWS input.
Anahuac NWR (Tex./2)           • 66 wells (50 active)             Oil spills have killed wildlife and   Refuge sometimes issues
                               • 3 production pads                brine spills have killed              voluntary permits. Do not require
                               • 3 transmission lines, numerous   vegetation. Abandoned                 operators to post bonds, but in
                                 flow lines                       infrastructure, including flow        one case, has collected fees for
                                                                  lines and storage tanks remain        damage that exceeded the
                                                                  at site.                              conditions of the special use
                                                                                                        permit.
McFaddin NWR (Tex./2)          • 105 wells (76 active)            Soil and groundwater                  Refuge issues voluntary special
                               • 3 production pads                contamination from oil spills.        use permits with conditions to
                               • 5 major transmission lines       Abandoned infrastructure              protect refuge resources.
                                                                  remains at site.
Patoka River NWR (Ind./3)      • 54 wells                       Soil and water contamination            Refuge does not require
                               • 3 transmission lines, numerous from oil spills. Abandoned              voluntary use permits or bonds.
                                 flow lines                     infrastructure remains at site.
Delta NWR (La./4)              • 338 wells (178 active)           Sediment contaminated by oil          Refuge issues special use and
                               • 2 fields, each with production   spills. Saltwater intrusion due to    right-of-way permits with
                                 facilities                       subsidence. Abandoned                 conditions imposed by FWS and
                               • 6 transmission lines and large   infrastructure remains at the site.   collects mitigation fees. One staff
                                 storage facility                                                       dedicated to oversight activities.
Atchafalya NWR (La./4)         • 37 wells (2 active)              Brine spills have killed              Although the property deed
                               • 3 production pads                vegetation. Old and unused            requires a special use permit
                               • 5 transmission lines and         infrastructure, including storage     and an approved plan of
                                 numerous flow lines              tanks, remains at the site.           operations, the refuge has not
                                                                                                        requested a plan of operations.
                                                                                                        In the past, the refuge has
                                                                                                        issued special use permits, but
                                                                                                        the current operator refuses to
                                                                                                        agree to their conditions.




                                           Page 53                                            GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                                              Appendix II
                                              Summary of Oil and Gas Activities at
                                              Refuges Visited




(Continued From Previous Page)
                                 Nature and extent of oil and
Refuge (State/FWS region)        gas activity                         Environmental effects                Management and oversight
Sabine NWR (La./4)               • 59 wells (8 active)                Pipeline spill caused wildlife       The refuge collects fees from
                                 • 4 production pads with storage     fatalities and contamination.        operators to fund full-time
                                   and separation facilities          Habitat loss from saltwater          oversight position. Voluntary
                                 • 9 transmission lines               intrusion and construction of        permits issued to manage
                                   (100 miles) and 40 active flow     roads, canals, and other             operator activities.
                                   lines (50 miles)                   facilities. Habitat fragmentation
                                                                      has contributed to increased
                                                                      number of predators.
D’Arbonne NWR (La./4)            • 139 wells (51 active)              Soil and vegetation damage           The refuge does not issue
                                 • 1 storage and injection facility   from brine spills and old disposal   permits for any of the gas
                                 • 5 transit pipelines (75 miles)     pits. Mercury contamination.         activities and relies on operator
                                   and numerous flow lines            Numerous abandoned wells             cooperation.
                                   (199 miles)                        remain at the site.
Upper Ouachita NWR (La./4)       • 1,120 wells (908 active)           Soil and vegetation damage           The refuge does not issue
                                 • No production pads                 from brine spills and old disposal   permits for any of the gas
                                 • 13 transmission lines              pits. Mercury contamination.         activities and relies on operator
                                   (31 miles) and numerous flow       Numerous abandoned wells             cooperation.
                                   lines (313 miles)                  remain at the site.
John Heinz NWR (Penn./5)         • 10 transmission pipelines          Large pipeline spill resulting in    The refuge issues permits for
                                                                      wildlife deaths and soil and         maintenance activities.
                                                                      sediment contamination.
Medicine Lake NWR/WMD            • 4 wells (2 active)                 Minor soil contamination from oil The refuge staff have developed
(Mont./6)                        • 2 production pads                  spills.                           regional management policy and
                                 • Numerous flow lines                                                  attach conditions to federal
                                                                                                        permits. The refuge assesses a
                                                                                                        fee for seismic activities.
J. Clark Salyer NWR and WMD      • 29 wells (1 active)                Unknown soil contamination           The refuge staff have developed
(N.D./6)                         • 2 production pads                  from oil spills.                     regional management policy and
                                 • Numerous flow lines                                                     attach conditions to federal
                                                                                                           permits. The refuge assesses a
                                                                                                           fee for seismic activities.
Upper Souris NWR (N.D./6)        • 10 wells                           Minor soil contamination from oil The refuge staff have developed
                                 • 1 production pad                   spills.                           regional management policy and
                                 • Numerous flow lines                                                  attach conditions to federal
                                                                                                        permits. The refuge assesses a
                                                                                                        fee for seismic activities.
Kenai NWR (Alaska/7)             • 164 wells (121 active)             Soil and water contamination         The refuge issues right of way
                                 • 60 production pads                 from numerous oil spills.            and special use permits and
                                 • Numerous flow lines                Mercury and polychlorinated          requires bonds.
                                                                      biphenyl contamination. Lost
                                                                      habitat from infrastructure
                                                                      development.
Source: GAO.




                                              Page 54                                             GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix III

Analysis of Legal Authority of the Fish
and Wildlife Service to Impose Prospective
Permit Requirements                                                                                           Appendx
                                                                                                                    iI




               The Fish and Wildlife Service’s current authority to regulate, prospectively,
               the oil and gas activities of private owners of “reserved” and “outstanding”
               mineral rights1 on national wildlife refuges (and those who obtain mineral
               rights from these private owners) is limited in a number of ways.2 FWS’s
               authority over owners of reserved mineral rights is limited by statute, to
               those instances in which the deed transferring the land from the mineral
               rights owner to the federal government includes language either requiring
               permits or requiring compliance with regulations the Department of the
               Interior may adopt in the future, including permitting regulations. FWS’s
               authority over owners of outstanding mineral rights is limited in the sense
               that FWS’s regulations do not currently require permits. Two of FWS’s
               sister land management agencies—the National Park Service and the
               United States Forest Service—have regulations that require outstanding
               mineral rights owners to obtain permits before engaging in oil and gas
               activities on federal lands they manage.3 FWS, on the other hand, has no
               such regulations. As discussed below, while it appears that the Department
               of the Interior has not taken a formal position on whether FWS has legal
               authority to promulgate such regulations, we conclude it has such
               authority, under its statutes and related case law.




               1
                 Privately owned mineral rights within wildlife refuges may be “reserved” or “outstanding.”
               Reserved mineral rights are those that were reserved by the owner when ownership of the
               surface land was transferred to the federal government. Outstanding mineral rights are
               those that were reserved before the surface was transferred to the federal government, and
               thus are owned by someone other than the party making the transfer to the government.
               2
                 In addition to FWS’s potential authority to establish controls on oil and gas activities on
               federal lands in advance of commencement of those activities, FWS also may have rights,
               under state law, to address the results of those activities after they occur. In particular, FWS
               generally has a typical landowner’s right to seek monetary damages and injunctive relief for
               contamination and other injury from activities beyond those reasonably necessary to
               explore and extract underlying minerals. See, e.g., United Geophysical Corp. v. Culver, 394
               F.2d 393 (5th Cir. 1964); Flying Diamond Corp. v. Rust, 551 P.2d 509 (Utah 1976); Guffey v.
               Stroud, 16 S.W.2d 527 (Tex. Comm. App. 1929).
               3
                 See 36 C.F.R. § 9.32 (Park Service); 36 C.F.R. § 51. 50(a) (Forest Service). The Forest
               Service regulations are “special use” permit regulations that have been applied to
               outstanding mineral rights. See Duncan Energy Co. v. United States Forest Service,
               50 F.3d 584 (8th Cir. 1995).




               Page 55                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                  Appendix III
                  Analysis of Legal Authority of the Fish
                  and Wildlife Service to Impose Prospective
                  Permit Requirements




Reserved Rights   The Department of the Interior believes, and we agree, that FWS has legal
                  authority to require private owners of reserved mineral rights located
                  within “acquired federal refuges” to obtain “entry permits” only in limited
                  circumstances, in order to obtain access to the refuge for minerals
                  exploration and removal. The department’s position was originally set out
                  in a 1986 legal opinion issued by the department’s Office of the Solicitor
                  (1986 Opinion),4 and the office recently advised us that the 1986 Opinion
                  continues to reflect the department’s position. The 1986 Opinion concluded
                  that FWS generally lacks statutory or other authority to require entry
                  permits for reserved rights owners and can do so only when the deed
                  transferring the surface property to the federal government has included
                  either specific permitting requirements or language subjecting the exercise
                  of the reserved mineral rights to regulations promulgated by the
                  department, including permitting regulations. The department’s position is
                  based on language in the Migratory Bird Conservation Act that was added
                  by amendment in 1935, making reserved rights subject to requirements
                  specifically set out in the deed or, if the deed so states, to regulations
                  prescribed “from time to time” by the Secretary of the Interior.5 If the deed
                  does not contain such provisions, the exercise of the reserved rights cannot
                  be subjected to permitting requirements.




                  4
                   See Memorandum from the Associate Solicitor, Conservation and Wildlife, to the Assistant
                  Secretary, Fish and Wildlife and Parks, “Fish and Wildlife Service authority to regulate use of
                  reserved mineral interests on National Wildlife Refuge lands,” FWS.CW.0661 (Dec. 22, 1986).
                  5
                    See Act of June 15, 1935, ch. 261, § 301, 49 Stat. 378, 381-82, codified at 16 U.S.C. § 715e
                  (“it shall be expressed in the deed or lease that the use, occupation, and operation of
                  [reserved interests retained by a grantor or lessor from whom the government acquires land
                  or wildlife refuges] shall be subordinate to and subject to such rules and regulations as are
                  set out in such deed or lease or, if deemed necessary by the Secretary of the Interior, to such
                  rules and regulations as may be prescribed by him from time to time”).




                  Page 56                                           GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                     Appendix III
                     Analysis of Legal Authority of the Fish
                     and Wildlife Service to Impose Prospective
                     Permit Requirements




                     As the 1986 Opinion explains, prior to the 1935 amendment, the Migratory
                     Bird Conservation Act had made all reserved rights subject to regulations
                     that were prescribed by the department “from time to time.”6 The House
                     Report associated with the 1935 amendment explains that “some owners of
                     very desirable tracts are unwilling to convey [property] on such indefinite
                     and uncertain terms as regulations made ‘from time to time.’ ’’7 The purpose
                     of the change was to provide those who reserved rights in lands they
                     transferred to the United States with some contractual certainty, and to
                     protect them from being required to abide by permitting regulations that
                     were not in effect when the deed was issued.8



Outstanding Rights   The foregoing limits in the Migratory Bird Conservation Act on how the
                     department may regulate reserved mineral rights do not apply to the
                     department’s regulation of outstanding mineral rights. A number of other
                     legal authorities in related areas indicate, in our view, that FWS has
                     statutory authority to regulate the exercise of outstanding mineral rights on
                     federal lands.

                     In Dunn McCampbell Royalty Interest, Inc. v. National Park Service,
                     964 F. Supp. 1125 (S.D. Tex. 1995), aff’d on other grounds, 112 F.3d 1283
                     (5th Cir. 1997), the court ruled that the National Park Service has authority
                     to reasonably regulate private owners’ access to their oil and gas interests
                     located beneath park system lands, by requiring approval of a plan of
                     operations before commencement of exploration or production activities.
                     The court relied on language in the National Park Service Organic Act
                     directing the Park Service to “protect and regulate” national parks so as to
                     “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife
                     therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and
                     by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future
                     generations,” as well as language directing the Department of the Interior



                     6
                         See Act of Feb. 18, 1929, ch. 257, § 6, 45 Stat.1222, 1223.
                     7
                         H.R. Rep. No. 74-886, at 2 (1935).
                     8
                       United States v. Little Lake Land Co., 412 U.S. 580, 597-99 (1973). See also Caire v. Fulton,
                     No. 84-3184 (W.D. La. Feb. 10, 1986) (relying on the 1935 amendment and legislative history
                     in holding that Interior did not have authority to impose permitting requirements on private
                     owners of mineral interests when those interests were reserved from federal control as part
                     of the acquisition of the land through condemnation).




                     Page 57                                               GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix III
Analysis of Legal Authority of the Fish
and Wildlife Service to Impose Prospective
Permit Requirements




to issue regulations “as . . . deem[ed] necessary or proper for the use of the
parks . . . under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.”9

Similarly, in Duncan Energy Co. v. United States Forest Service,
50 F.3d 584 (8th Cir. 1995), the Eighth Circuit court ruled that although the
Forest Service may not completely deny access to private owners of
mineral interests located within National Forest System lands, the Forest
Service may impose reasonable conditions on the use of the federally
owned surface and thus may require mineral owners to obtain approval
before exploring for or developing minerals. The court relied on language
in the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act that directs the Department of
Agriculture (the Forest Service’s parent agency) “to develop a program of
land conservation and land utilization” and to issue regulations necessary
to “regulate the use and occupancy of property acquired [for the National
Forest System] in order to conserve and utilize it.”10 The court also relied
on the Forest Service’s “special use” regulations providing that “[a]ll uses of
National Forest System lands . . . are designated ‘special uses’ [and must be
approved by an] authorized officer.11

The statutes addressed in Dunn McCampbell and Duncan bear a number
of similarities to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
(Refuge System Administration Act), which governs the National Wildlife
Refuge System. Notably, language added to the Refuge System
Administration Act by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement
Act of 1997 is very similar to the language of the National Park Service
Organic Act relied upon by the Dunn McCampbell court. As amended in
1997, the Refuge System Administration Act now provides that the mission
of the NWRS is to administer lands for the “conservation, management, and
where appropriate, restoration of [fish and wildlife] for the benefit of
present and future generations of Americans” and directs the Secretary of
the Interior to “ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and
environmental health of the System are maintained for the benefit of



9
  16 U.S.C. §§ 1, 3; see 964 F. Supp. at 1133. The court in Dunn McCampbell left open the
possibility that the Park Service’s regulation of the mineral interests might constitute a
“taking” for which the owner should have been compensated under the Fifth Amendment to
the Constitution, and the court transferred the dispute over the owner’s taking claims to the
appropriate judicial forum in Dunn McCampbell.
10
     50 F.3d at 589, citing 7 U.S.C. §§ 1010, 1011(f).
11
     50 F.3d at 589, citing 36 C.F.R. § 251.50(a).




Page 58                                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix III
Analysis of Legal Authority of the Fish
and Wildlife Service to Impose Prospective
Permit Requirements




present and future generations of Americans.”12 The Refuge System
Administration Act also explicitly authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to
issue regulations to carry out the act.13 Similarly, as in the statute relied on
by the Duncan court regarding the Forest Service’s permitting authority,
the 1997 amendments to the Refuge System Administration Act added
language directing the Secretary of the Interior to “provide for the
conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants, and their habitats within the
[Refuge] System.”14

Thus, as with the statutes at issue in Dunn McCampbell and Duncan, the
1997 amendments to the Refuge System Administration Act authorize the
Department of the Interior to manage the National Wildlife Refuge System
with the same type of policy direction and management standards with
which the Park System and the Forest System are managed, including
issuance of permitting regulations.15 The legislative history of the Refuge
System Administration Act confirms Congress’s concern for ecosystem and
fish and wildlife conservation and for ensuring that uses of the refuges are
compatible with their purposes.16 Although neither the Administration Act’s
1997 amendments nor their legislative history specifically refers to
regulation of the activities of private oil and gas operators, the overriding
purpose of the amendments—providing better management to protect
the refuges—together with the reasoning of the courts addressing similar
statutes in Dunn McCampbell and Duncan indicate that FWS has current
authority to require private owners of outstanding mineral rights to obtain
permits before conducting oil and gas operations.




12
  16 U.S.C. §§ 668dd(a)(2), (a)(4)(B), added by Pub. L. No. 105-57, §§ 4, 5(a), 111 Stat. 1252,
1254 (1997).
13
     16 U.S.C. § 668dd(b)(5).
14
     16 U.S.C. § 668dd(a)(4)(A), added by Pub. L. No. 105-57, § 5(a), 111 Stat. 1252, 1254 (1997).
15
     See H.R. Rep. No. 105-106, at 3 (1997).
16
     Id. at 3-4, 8, 9.




Page 59                                             GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix IV

Scope and Methodology                                                                          Appendx
                                                                                                     iIV




              To identify the nature and extent of oil and gas activities resident within
              the National Wildlife System, we relied on several sources of information.
              We began with our 2001 report, which identified 77 units with oil and
              gas activities based on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s reported activities
              in the year 2000. We used the same information source, FWS’s Refuge
              Management Information System (RMIS), and reviewed exploration,
              production, and pipeline activities for the years 1994-2001. This
              information is self-reported by refuges and, by FWS officials’ admission,
              incomplete. In addition, RMIS does not indicate the scale of activities
              present on a refuge—for example, whether there is one well or hundreds
              of wells. Therefore, we contracted Premier Data Services of Englewood,
              Colorado, to provide more accurate and comprehensive data on the extent
              and type of oil and gas activities occurring on refuges. Premier maintains
              a national database of oil and gas wells collected from well permit data
              compiled by each state’s oil and gas regulators. Premier recently
              contributed to a study for the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and
              Energy under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, providing a
              comprehensive review of oil and gas resources and constraints on their
              development in five basins in the interior West.

              To determine the number of wells residing on FWS lands, Premier
              compared a county-by-county listing of wells against a list of counties with
              refuge system lands provided by FWS. For those refuges in counties with at
              least one well, Premier either obtained digital maps of the refuges’ current
              land status from FWS or, in those cases where FWS had not digitized the
              refuge boundaries, converted paper maps into digital format. Premier then
              overlaid the geographic plots of wells nationwide with the digitized maps
              to identify wells within refuge boundaries and to identify wells within
              ½ mile outside the boundaries. (See fig. 11 for a sample plot of the Butte
              Sink Wildlife Management Area.) In addition to obtaining information on
              the location of oil and gas wells, we also obtained information on the
              status, type, and amount of production of oil, gas, and water (brine) from
              each well. We eliminated from the database permitted wells that were not
              drilled, while wells with any production in the most recent reporting period
              we categorized as active; all other wells we categorized as inactive.




              Page 60                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix IV
Scope and Methodology




Figure 11: Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area (Calif.), Plot of Wells and One-Half
Mile Boundary




    Butte Sink Refuge
         Active wells         (1)
         Inactive wells       (8)

Source: Premier Data Services (data) and GAO (analysis).



To identify pipelines transiting refuge lands, we relied on the National
Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), which is maintained by the Office of
Pipeline Safety in the Department of Transportation and on FWS’s RMIS.
We overlaid the NPMS data on the 138 refuges for which we had digital
refuge boundary data because they also had wells inside or just outside
their boundaries. The FWS had not finished digitizing refuge maps for the
other refuges in the system. NPMS is based on data reported to the Office
of Pipeline Safety by pipeline owners. NPMS includes 99 percent of the
nation’s hazardous liquids (including oil and other petroleum products)
pipelines and 61 percent of natural gas pipelines in the United States.



Page 61                                                    GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix IV
Scope and Methodology




NPMS does not include local gathering lines or pumping and storage
facilities that supplement these lines. To supplement this information, we
included refuges identified in RMIS as having transit pipelines. However,
there may be other refuges with pipelines, not recorded in NPMS, RMIS, or
for which we did not have digital maps.

As part of FWS’s review of this report, they identified additional refuges
that may have oil and gas activities or updated the status of activities at
the refuges listed, but did not offer corroborating documentation. While
this information may have been more current than the Premier or the
Department of Transportation databases, we chose to keep these data
intact and did not make additional adjustments.

We attempted to identify information regarding the overall environmental
effects of oil and gas activities on national wildlife refuges. However,
because FWS had conducted few studies and did not have information
regarding what the overall environmental effects of oil and gas activities
on refuges were and how those effects have changed over time, we
selected at least one refuge in each of FWS’s seven regions for physical
inspection. In making these selections, we attempted to choose a cross
section of refuges considering the type and scale of oil and gas activities,
range of environmental effects, and extent and type of management and
oversight. In total, we visited 16 refuges containing 1,510 active and 2,695
total oil and gas wells, about 84 percent and 61 percent, respectively, of all
oil and gas wells we identified on refuges. For a complete list of refuges we
visited, see appendix II. At each refuge visited, we asked the refuge
manager to describe the effects of oil and gas activities on the refuge,
obtained any available studies of these effects, and visited locations of oil
and gas activity selected by the refuge manager to represent a range of
effects. In addition, we contacted state regulators and industry and
environmental representatives and reviewed state laws, FWS contaminant
reports, and scientific and industry and environmental group reports. To
identify reclamation and remediation performed at the refuges visited, we
reviewed files at each refuge, discussed actions taken with refuge officials,
and reviewed information FWS provided from its cleanup and maintenance
databases. To identify steps FWS has taken to document the environmental
effect on refuge resources, we reviewed Contaminant Assessment Program
studies and additional information FWS provided from its contaminants
database. We also discussed these efforts with FWS officials.

To assess FWS’s management and oversight of oil and gas activities in the
National Wildlife Refuge System, we obtained information on policy,



Page 62                                  GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix IV
Scope and Methodology




guidance, and practices from headquarters and the seven regional offices
and documented the actual practices in use at the 16 refuges we visited.
To determine the authority of the FWS to require private mineral owners
to obtain permits containing conditions to protect refuge resources from
damage and to oversee oil and gas activities, we obtained information
from the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor and reviewed
the laws and regulations pertaining to the FWS and other federal land
management agencies and recent court cases concerning private mineral
rights on federal lands. We also identified the type and amount of training
the FWS staff had received and reviewed mechanisms for funding positions
to manage and oversee oil and gas activities. In addition, we interviewed
officials and obtained documentation on FWS’s coordination with, and the
involvement of, other federal and state agencies in the oversight of oil and
gas activities on refuges. Finally, we reviewed the acquisition policies and
practices used by FWS for adding lands to the refuge system, especially
those that contain current or historical oil and gas activities.




Page 63                                 GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix V

Comments from the Department of the
Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                 Append
                                                                                 x
                                                                                 i
                                                                                 V




Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in
the report text appear
at the end of this
appendix.




See comment 1.




See comment 2.




See comment 3.




                         Page 64   GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix V
Comments from the Department of the
Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service




Page 65                                       GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
                 Appendix V
                 Comments from the Department of the
                 Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service




GAO’s Comments   1. We provided opportunity for the Department of the Interior and the
                    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to review a draft of this report.
                    To protect against the possibility of early disclosure of the report, we
                    did not provide the department copies of the draft report to retain, but
                    did give agency officials ample opportunity to review and take notes on
                    the draft. We allowed department and FWS officials to review a draft of
                    the report in Washington, D.C.; Denver; Atlanta; and Portland without
                    restriction as to the time, number of personnel, or note-taking.

                 2. See our response in Agency Comments and Our Evaluation section on
                    page 44.

                 3. See our response in Agency Comments and Our Evaluation section on
                    page 45.




                 Page 66                                       GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
Appendix VI

GAO Contacts and Acknowledgments                                                                 Appendx
                                                                                                       iVI




GAO Contacts      Barry T. Hill (202) 512-3841
                  William R. Swick (206) 287-4851



Acknowledgments   In addition to the names above, Mary Acosta, Paul Aussendorf, Robert
                  Crystal, Sandra Davis, Jonathan Dent, Doreen Feldman, Chalane Lechuga,
                  John Mingus, Mehrzad Nadji, and Cynthia Norris made key contributions to
                  this report.




(360210)          Page 67                               GAO-03-517 Oil and Gas on Wildlife Refuges
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