Thursday, January 17, 2008

Congress Should Drown Pesky Law Of The Sea



Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2007

United States ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty was rejected years ago because of sovereignty concerns, but the issue failed to die and has been revived in Congress with disturbing momentum.

President Ronald Reagan vetoed the measure in 1982 because it would have hurt American sovereignty. President Bill Clinton brought the issue back in the 1990s without success, but the treaty has been hanging around through the years.

With a Democratic majority in Congress the treaty is back and surprisingly, and mistakenly in the view of many observers, the Bush administration has endorsed it and the full Senate could take up the measure soon.

Resources under the Arctic Ocean and an ice-free Northwest Passage are listed as reasons for the United States to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). But Jim Johnston, former member of the U.S. delegation studying the treaty, said that does not square with his experience in that role.

Johnson, a retired Amoco economist and policy adviser to The Heartland Institute, said the Senate "ought to protect the nation's consumers by rejecting LOST and its potential mineral cartel."

Another concern is that Europe is using international means, such as the treaty, to impose a "better safe than sorry" regulatory model for the environment that jeopardizes America's free enterprise system, said Lawrence Kogan, an international business attorney and pro-U.S. sovereignty activist.

A rising number of environmental controls have been put in place in Europe, Kogan said, noting there are at least 45 different articles on environmental regulation in LOST that embrace the "precautionary principle."

Environmental regulations in the treaty are tied with "Europe's penchant for gaining the economic upper hand" against America, he added.

Edwin Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, worries that the treaty is an example of an old problem of lawmakers racing to pass bills they have not actually read.

Experts who have bothered to look beyond the treaty's title know LOST would create a bureaucratic International Seabed Authority with the power to regulate trade, exploration and mining in the world's oceans, he explained.

This authority would basically be an aquatic United Nations of the sea, it is pointed out. Except, instead of issuing toothless condemnations of the United States, "this authority would have the actual power to thwart American interests." A look at how the United States fares in the United Nations shows what could be expected.

For example, the treaty would give environmental activists the power to bring action against the United States. for violating the Kyoto Protocol, even though the Senate never ratified that accord and senators have sensibly made it clear they wouldn't agree to Kyoto if it would harm American economic interests.

And the treaty's authority wouldn't stop with the sea. In a recent Senate hearing, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., cited a section of the treaty on enforcement with respect to pollution from land-based sources indicating it would cover those areas.

The treaty insists that any country that signs it will be required to pass "laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from or through the atmosphere," Feulner said.

"The problem is that once the Senate ratifies the treaty, we're bound by the entire thing, not just those parts we agree with," he added. That is a point that came up recently in a Supreme Court case indicating a treaty supersedes state laws.

Proponents of the Law of the Sea Treaty appear to have gained momentum in Washington to finally get approval of the pact in the Senate. That could be changed if Senators would take time to read the treaty before they vote to see it is a bad proposal.

Any risk of putting U.S. sovereignty and national security issues in the hands of international tribunals clearly in not worth taking.

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