Interior Secretary-designate Cecil D. Andrus said yesterday he favors stricter federal control of strip mining, offshore oil development and mining on federal lands.
During five hours of questioning before the Senate Interior Committee, the Idaho governor proved his reputation as an environmentalist and drew effusive praise from both Democratic and Republican senators.
The committee is expected to confirm his appointment today after testimony from ecology, Indian and other groups.
"If I'm faced with a decision of development with adequate safeguards for the environment, I'll come down on the side of development," Andrus said. "If I'm faced with development without adequate safeguards, I'll come down on the side of environment."
In sharp contrast with the Republican administration, Andrus promised to support: a strip-mine bill vetoed last year and its provisions for surface owners' rights; a ban on mining agricultural land; state vetoes of mining in certain areas, and federal control over existing leases.
He declined, however, to support a moratorium on coal leasing.
In the controversy over offshore oil development, Andrus said he favors amendments to the outer continental shelf legislation to give greater offshore control to coastal states and to require prompt production from leases. He also advocated strict control of offshore transportation to avoid tanker spills.
Andrus indicated he would "place in a holding status" Interior's accelerated offshore leasing until new outer continental shelf legislation is passed. "A 60- to 90-day delay wouldn't be disastrous," he said after the hearing.
Several senators, including Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Clifford Hansen (R-Wyo.), expressed concern over reports that a Jimmy Carter transition team has recommended reviewing 61 public works projects, many of which are under construction by the Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior Department agency.
Citing the recent Teton Dam failure, which killed 14 people and destroyed thousands of farms in Idaho, Andrus said, "I intend to plow into some of those projects from a safety and design standpoint," but declined to name specific projects.
Andrus avoided committing himself on the controversial issue of oil company diverstiture, but agreed with Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) that major oil companies should not be allowed to gain an excessive hold over the nation's coal resources, and said Interior Department policy should encourage small, non-petroleum companies to lease coal.
While details of federal energy reorganization have not been worked out, Andrus said Interior should continue to administer public lands, which include more than one third of all U.S. terrain. "You can't mine, graze timber and picnic on the same 40 acres," he said. "Some areas should not be used. Others should be used intensively. You shouldn't turn anyone loose to do what they wnat on public lands."
Under any reorganization, Andrus said, he would prefer that Interior retain control of coal and offshore oil leasing (Carter's energy aide, James Schlesinger, has indicated such functions might be included in a new energy department).
"I'm fearful of separating subsurface rights from surface rights," Andrus said. "You might have someone (in charge) who might not care about the surface rights as much as I do."