By Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) - 06/12/12 11:14 PM EDT
More than three years into the Obama administration, Democrats haven’t been able to pass a cap-and-trade law but are poised to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) — an international agreement certain to cripple America’s energy economy.
LOST was rejected by the Reagan administration 30 years ago and never received enough Senate support under former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush to be ratified, but the internationalists in the Obama administration finally see the opportunity to muster enough votes for LOST during the lame-duck session after the November elections — the same way they rammed through the New START nuclear arms treaty following their disastrous 2010 elections.
Because treaties require 67 votes for ratification, it would require only 34 Republican senators to vote against it. As of this writing, 27 Republican senators have pledged to oppose LOST. More Republicans should take a stand now to deter the Democrats from pursuing it further.
Supporters of the treaty say it’s needed to strengthen America’s hand when it comes to military and diplomatic matters. Nonsense. The United States is the most powerful country in the history of the world. America doesn’t need a piece of paper to make other countries respect its positions.
A strong Navy is the best vehicle to protect navigational rights, not a flimsy treaty riddled with legal complexities. The United States should not sacrifice its sovereignty to yet another international organization to gain something we already have.
Moreover, other countries, such as China, routinely flout the rules in the treaty. China’s claims on waters in the West Philippine Sea exceed what’s allowed by LOST, but what have the other 161 LOST countries done about it? Nothing.
There is no reason why the United States should enter a legal framework that other participants don’t abide by. When the United States plays by the rules that other countries ignore, the United States is at a clear disadvantage.
Although the treaty is meant to establish a set of rules regarding the oceans, only a few pages of it deal with purely navigational concerns. The bulk of the 288-page treaty does things like establish a new international bureaucracy in Jamaica to collect and redistribute royalties on offshore oil drilling and force the United States into international arbitration for environmental disputes.
During a recent Senate hearing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked how LOST would regulate American carbon emissions. Clinton claimed it wouldn’t, but she didn’t appear to consider several portions of the treaty that condemn and place sanctions on pollution — even those coming from land-based sources.
LOST compels states to “adopt laws and regulations” to “implement applicable international rules and standards established through competent international organizations or diplomatic conference to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources.” In short, this means if an international body established any guidelines regarding energy emissions or climate change, the United States could be sued for failing to abide by it.
International organizations such as the United Nations already treat carbon as a pollutant. Because of this, LOST acts as a “backdoor” Kyoto Protocol.
LOST dictates that disputes, environmental or otherwise, be settled by a five-member arbitration panel. That panel would be made up of two representatives each from the parties involved in the dispute and one deciding vote. If the two parties cannot agree on the critical fifth arbiter, the deciding vote would be appointed by the U.N. secretary-general.
Imagine if the United States got into a dispute with France or Cuba. We should not trust a U.N.-appointed judge to be an intermediary between the United States and other nations.
LOST is just the latest part of the White House’s relentless push to regulate America’s energy emissions. In a 2009 speech at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, President Obama said there needed to be a “mechanism” to “review whether we are keeping our commitments” and “living up to our obligations” in regards to international climate change agreements.
“For without such accountability,” he said, “any agreement would be empty words on a page.”
LOST would be that mechanism.
The Senate has already provided its consent to the Obama administration for one misguided treaty with New START last year. Republicans must not let that mistake be repeated again in the upcoming lame duck.
DeMint is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.