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A third principle we have followed is to keep solutions to
environmental concerns free of political considerations. Any
move by one country, such as the U.S., to be impose its own
environmental procedures on MDB's would immediately expose the
U.S. to charges that our efforts are politically motivated, and
that our treatment of other countries is guided solely by our
We believe that E.0. 12114 strikes the appropriate balance
in extending NEPA requirements to certain major Federal actions
with a potentially significant environmental effect outside of
the U.S. while not requiring votes and other actions in
It should be clear by now that the proposal to extend NEPA
legislation to the MDBs marks a deviation from these general
principles by which we have tried to increase environmental
support to the banks. I think that everyone here today shares
the same goal, which is to ensure thoughtful consideration and
thorough environmental review of mulilateral actions and
The question is how to best meet this goal. The Department
supports U.S. efforts to assist the environmental staffs of the
MDB's by providing technical assistance, training and advice on
the conduct of environmental analyses. The U.S. should be
prepared to participate with MDB staffs in programs to develop
NEPA procedural requirements.
an MDB environmental assessment process similar to that
followed by Federal agencies under NEPA, but without certain
Similar proccesses in other
countries should also be examined as precedents. To the extent
possible, UNEP should also be invited to participate in this
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for allowing me to discuss
our current efforts at MDB reform.
330 Pennsylvania Avenue. S.E.. Washington. D.C. 20003 (202) 547-1141
STATEMENT OF LARRY WILLIAMS
BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HAZARDOUS WASTES AND TOXIC SUBSTANCES
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
REGARDING U.S. INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES AND
COMPLIANCE WITH THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
MAY 10, 1988
I am Larry Williams, International Representative of the Sierra Club. Prior to joining the Washington staff of the Sierra Club, I was a member of the policy staff at the Council on Environmental Quality between 1978 and 1981. We are pleased that this subcommittee is taking this opportunity to examine whether the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires U.S. governmental agencies to comply with this act when agency actions involve other countries, such as grant-making, consultation, policy making. The answer to this question would, of course, have a direct impact on the U.S. Treasury Department's voting on multilateral development projects.
There are actually two questions that need to be addressed today regarding NEPA. One, should international activities of U.S. agencies fall under the requirement of NEPA? We believe that EPA does apply. If this Subcommittee agrees with us on this first question, then the second question to address is whether Congress should give special treatment under NEPA for how the Treasury Department applies this law to the votes it casts on the Board of Executive Directors of the multilateral development banks (MDBs).
I would like to first address the question of whether or not all federal activities that effect the quality of the human environment outside the boundaries of the U.S. are covered under NEPA. As this Subcommittee is
When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. John Muir
well aware, since the passage of NEPA1, almost all federal agencies have restructured their decision-making process in order to avert unintended injury to nature and man within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.2 But what about U.S. activities outside our boarders? NEPA expressly states that its purposes include the promotion of "efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man... ■3 It should be clear to all that the "biosphere" embraces all living organisms, including man, whether found on the solid earth, in the waters, or in the atmosphere of our planet." In the Declaration of National Environmental Policy, the Congress gave explicit recognition to "the profound impact of man's activity on the interrelations of all components of the natural environment" and has declared it to be the
continuing policy of the Federal Government ...to use all practicable means...to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony...
There is nothing in the Act to indicate that the federal government must be concerned only with environmental impacts of its actions within the United States. NEPA states that "all agencies of the Federal Government shall"6 act to protect the biosphere.
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), Pub. L. 91-190, 83 Stat. 852, 42 U.S. C. § 4321-74 (1970).
Robinson, Extraterritorial Environmental Protection Obligations of Foreign Affairs Agencies: The Unfulfilled Mandate of NEPA, 7 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 257,266 (1974) (hereinafter "Robinson"]
NEPA $ 2,42 U.S.C. § 4321 (1970).
Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged) (1968) defines "biosphere" as follows:
1. The part of the world in which life can exist including parts of the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. 2. Living beings together with their environment.
NEPA § 101(a), 42 U.S.C. § 4331 (a) (1970).
NEPA § 102 (2), 42 U.S.C. § 4332 (2) (1970).
In 1974, the Sierra Club brought suit against the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)7 "to compel the Atomic Energy Commission, Eximbank, and the State Department to file a NEPA impact statement with respect to an export program under which the U.S. would sell nuclear power generating systems and enriched nuclear fuels to other countries". 8 After the suit was
Sierra Club v. Atomic Energy Commission
initiated, the AEC decided to prepare a NEPA statement on the nuclear power export process. The AEC then joined the State Department in recognizing NEPA's applicability to its activities. The Court expressed recognition of NEPA's all-inclusive mandate by declaring that "NEPA makes no exceptions in directing 'all agencies of the Federal government' to comply with its provisions". 9
Another suit I want to mention concerned Sierra Club v. the Department of Transportation (DOT).10 The issue was over the need for DOT to write an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to constructing a link of the Inter-American Highway between Panama and Colombia through the Darien Gap. This project was authorized in an amendment to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1970 which directed the Secretary of DOT to cooperate with Panama and Colombia in the construction of the highway "in the location known as the 'Darien Gap'". In that case, the Sierra Club held that the construction of the highway through the Darien Gap would lead to uncontrolled destruction
Sierra Club v. Department of Transportation
Sierra Club v Atomic Energy Commission, No. 1867-73 (D.D.C. August
Civil No. 1867-73.
10 Sierra Club Coleman, 405 F. Supp. 53, 421 F. Supp. 63, D.C. District Court 1975. Sierra Club v. Adams, 578 F. 2b 389 (D.C. Circut Court 1987).
11 23 U.S.C. § 216 (a) (1970).