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Environmental Oversight of Classified Federal Research

From: "James R. Graham" 
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 97 22:34:19 -0400
Subject: Environmental Oversight of Classified Federal Research

I came across the following at
and thought it an appropriate post. The link is to the text in full, so
the Grand, High, Exalted, Mystic Moderator may edit the out the following
as it is a portion of said text if he so wishes.

--beware of red lazarbeams [sic]--

Environmental Oversight of Agencies' Classified Operations

According to EPA headquarters and regional enforcement officials, EPA and
the states have been conducting enforcement activities at known
classified federal
research facilities, but management oversight of such enforcement has not
been systematic. According to EPA, known facilities are inspected and
required through
EPA and/or state oversight to comply with environmental laws. However,
neither EPA headquarters nor its regions have complete inventories of all
classified federal
facilities subject to environmental requirements, either nationally or at
a regional level.

Instead, EPA headquarters and field enforcement officials said they
depend on agencies to report the existence of their classified
facilities, to report environmental
monitoring data, and to cooperate with EPA and authorized states in
assuring that such facilities are in compliance. They said they receive a
degree of cooperation at
known DOE and DOD classified facilities but are constrained by secrecy
and need-to-know considerations. Then they receive cooperation, they
conduct appropriate
field enforcement activities.

In this regard, an ongoing lawsuit by former employees at an Air Force
facility near Groom Lake, Nevada, alleged violations of RCRA, including
EPA's failure to
conduct a RCR inspection there. EPA has affirmed that EPA field
inspectors conducted an inspection of the location pursuant to RCRA from
December 1994 to March
1995. In August 1995, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada
ruled that the plaintiffs' objectives in bringing the suit had been
accomplished, in that EPA
had performed its duties under RCRA to inspect and inventory the site.

In May 1995, EPA and the Air Force affirmed by a memorandum of agreement
that EPA w ill continue to have access at the Groom Lake facility for
purposes of
administering the environmental laws and that the Air Force is committed
to complying with RCRA at the location. The details of the issues
resulting in the
agreement are classified. According to the director of EPA's Office of
Federal Facilities Enforcement, EPA is fulfilling its oversight
responsibility at the facility.
However, he said he was uncertain of the extent to which other such
highly classified federal facilities-- or areas within facilities-- may
exist and whether their
research operations are in environmental compliance.

According to the director of federal facilities enforcement, the degree
of EPA's involvement in classified activities may broaden in the future.
The agency is
currently working with the Air Force on a broader memorandum of agreement
applicable to all classified Air Force facilities. Also, the director
said that EPA held a
meeting in 1995 with other agencies, including intelligence agencies,
concerning further possible memorandums of agreement similar to the one
signed with the Air
Force for Groom Lake. Also, EPA, in conjunction with agencies that have
highly classified programs, is working on procedures for improved
environmental regulation
at classified installations.

Nevertheless, it is not clear that EPA will have the resources to oversee
additional environmental compliance by any federal facilities. EPA's
Office of Federal
Facilities Enforcement is currently responsible for overseeing the
cleanup of the 154 federal sites included in the National Priorities List
under the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). EPA has
stated that it has the resources to oversee federal facilities' overall
management and compliance, but few additional resources for greater
oversight of classified facilities.

James R. Graham
Senior Assoc. Scientist
Genetics Institute
Research Computing

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