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Volume 5, Issue 6 — June 1975


A Progress Report on the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage and Its Supplementary Fund Convention

by Lance D. Wood

An important development in international environmental law was announced recently by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. In April 1975, IMCO revealed that the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage1 now has been ratified by the required number of nations to bring that treaty into operation.

The "Civil Liability Convention" (or "Liability Convention") will enter into force on June 19, 1975, and immediately will govern claims for vessel-source oil pollution damage among many nations which register large fleets of oil tankers or which possess coastlines vulnerable to tanker oil spills. The following nations had ratified or acceded to the Liability Convention as of April 16, 1975: the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Norway, Liberia, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Fiji, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Syria.2 Representatives of 29 nations, including the United States, have signed the Liability Convention. Since most signatory powers probably will ratify the Liability Convention, the eventual influence of the treaty is potentially great.3


Congress Under Pressure to Amend NEPA to Allow State Participation in Impact Statement Preparation

The recent passage of two bills by the United States House of Representatives1 is forcing environmentalists to reassess the importance of requiring that environmental impact statements be prepared by the "responsible federal official," rather than by state agencies. Both bills would in effect permit state officials to prepare NEPA impact statements, so long as federal officials involve themselves in the process in a supervisory capacity.

One bill, H.R. 3130, reported favorably by the Committee on Merchant Marines and Fisheries, would amend NEPA itself, by adding a clause which provides that environmental impact statements "shall not be deemed to be legally insufficient solely by reason of having been prepared by a state official or agency" and requires that the responsible federal official furnish guidance, participate in preparing the statement, and evaluate it independently prior to its approval and adoption. The other, H.R. 3787, would amend Title 23 of the United States Code (a compilation of the various highway acts) by providing that impact statements prepared on federal aid highway projects by state officials in New York, Vermont, and Connecticut (the three states in the Second Circuit, the one Circuit that strictly construes the NEPA mandate that the EIS be prepared by the "responsible federal official") shall be deemed to be prepared by the Secretary of Transportation for the purposes of NEPA, once subjected to analysis, evaluation, and adoption by the Secretary. Both bills apply to all impact statements prepared after January 1, 1970. The measures are now before the Senate, where the conflicting and redundant approaches in the House-passed bills are expected to be resolved in favor of H.R. 3130.2

Electric Utility Rate Design: The Move Toward Peak-Load Pricing

Energy conservation, especially as derives from improved efficiency of conversion and end use, has become perhaps the only widely agreed upon part of our national policy for dealing with the current projected shortfalls between domestic fuel supplies and the nation's appetite for energy. One of the many strategies to bring about reduced energy consumption now under active consideration at both the federal and state level is the redesign of electric utility rate structures.1 A particular problem affecting efforts to conserve electrical energy, however, is the cyclic nature of daily and seasonal electrical loads. Peak loads may not account for a large portion of total consumption over a year, but they are responsible for a disproportionate share of the capital and fuel costs and adverse environmental impacts of electricity generation. Utilities must expand their facilities to meet these peak demands, and construction and operation of additional fossil-fueled and nuclear power plants, transmission lines, and pumped storage facilities require large capital outlays and have obvious environmental effects. When completed, however, these new facilities, except for pumped storage projects which are always used for peak generation, are brought permanently on line and older, less-efficient and more polluting equipment is shifted to peak load duty. Thus, it is actually this older equipment that is used to meet demand at peak loads, with the undesirable features of inefficient fuel consumption and emission of higher levels of pollution.

The Environmental Defense Fund and others have long argued that one way to both conserve energy and to decrease unnecessary environmental degradation due to electricity generation is to introduce peak-load pricing into electric utility rate structures. This advocacy has finally begun to bear fruit, as the public service commissions of several states, most notably Wisconsin and also California and New York, recently have taken initial steps toward incorporation of peak-load pricing into electric utility rate structures.

International Application of NEPA: Environmentalists Challenge Pesticide Aid Program

Several environmental organizations recently filed suit seeking to require an environmental analysis of the Agency for International Development's (AID) use of pesticides in foreign countries.1 The basis for the suit is AID's financial and technical assistance in the use of pesticides, including several banned in the United States, by foreign governments. Resolution of this narrow issue hinges on the answer to an important legal question—the applicability of NEPA to activities outside the United States. The status of CEQ interpretations of NEPA's requirements is also involved because of a 1973 letter from CEQ to AID requesting the environmental analysis sought by the plaintiffs.

AID assistance for the purchase and application of pesticides is given primarily through commodity assistance programs. Items are placed on a Commodity Eligibility List, which makes them eligible for AID financing. AID may thereafter provide assistance to foreign governments, agencies, or nationals, for the procurement and use of items on the list. Among the pesticides on the Commodity Eligibility List are DDT, aldrin, and dieldrin. Pesticide purchases are also funded through various capital and technical assistance programs as part of agricultural development projects.