U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/24/2004
Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Law of the Sea Convention

Good afternoon. The Environment and Public Works Committee will come to order. I want to open this hearing thanking our witnesses in advance for their testimony. The Committee will receive testimony this afternoon regarding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea represents an international agreement of party nations to comply with mandatory rules related to the navigation of the seas, the use of marine resources, and the protection of the marine environment.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held two hearings on this Convention last fall. However, even after holding two hearings, the Committee only examined one side of this issue – those who support the Convention. Today I welcome the opportunity for a balanced hearing so that both sides of this issue may be heard, since the Convention is now pending on the Senate calendar.

This Committee is conducting this oversight hearing today because we have an obligation to ensure that this Convention is consistent with protecting human health, the environment, and does not adversely affect the sovereignty of the United States. It is time to slow down and take a critical evaluation of this Convention that deals with the Outer Continental Shelf which is in the jurisdiction of this Committee.

I have many concerns about the flawed provisions in this Convention. Specifically, Article 2, section 3 that states ‘The sovereignty over the territorial sea is exercised subject to this Convention and to other rules of international law.’

Also, when a coastal State exploits non-living resources, such as oil, from its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, the Convention requires the coastal State to make annual payments starting in the sixth year of production to the International Seabed Authority. This Authority is also granted immunity and accountability from legal process, from search and any form of seizure wherever located and held, and is also exempted from restrictions, regulations, controls and moratoria of any nature. We need to critically examine these concerns to ensure this Authority cannot conduct itself in a manner outside the recommendations of this Convention. This Convention also contains numerous provisions relating to the protection of the marine environment specifically addressing pollution from multiple sources including land-based pollution, ocean dumping, vessel and atmospheric pollution, and pollution from offshore activities.

We need to take a closer look at these provisions, such as Articles 208 and 210 of the Convention which require Coastal States to adopt laws and regulations that shall be no less effective than international rules and recommended practices to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from seabed activities and dumping. Furthermore, Article 207 requires States shall adopt laws and regulations for pollution from land-based sources to minimize to the fullest extent possible the release of toxic, harmful or noxious substances into the marine environment.

In addition, Article 196 of the Convention addresses the issue of invasive species, which is a major environmental issue facing this country. This Committee recognizes the detrimental effects from introduction of invasive species and we are currently reviewing legislation to address this issue independently. Although the Convention appears to affirm a coastal nation’s exercise of its domestic authority to regulate the introduction of invasive species into the marine environment, we must critically evaluate the flexibility to fully address this problem.

Although it is not the focus of today’s hearing, as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, I am very troubled about the implications of this Convention on our national security, particularly in view of our continuing war on terrorism. I want to make it clear today that I intend to look into those issues more fully before the Senate considers this Convention.

I look forward to hearing testimony from the witnesses today addressing these concerns and others in this Convention. I do want to note for the record that Dr. Leitner appears today in his own capacity as a private citizen and does not represent the Department of Defense.

Thank you.