... Congress will return to a long lame duck agenda. In addition to big-ticket questions like averting sequestration and addressing expiring tax cuts, there are plenty of low-profile items. Below is a list of unfinished legislative items created by staff in the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. ... The Law of the Sea treaty.
Sen. John Kerry said the United States’ delay on accepting the Law of the Sea Treaty is threatening our military’s navigational powers and our economic stability during a public lecture on campus Friday. In his lecture, Kerry said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was first negotiated in the ‘70s and is known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, assigns certain areas of land under the oceans for use by specified nations. Close to 160 countries and the European Union have joined the treaty, but the U.S. has yet to sign because of fear of allotting power to developing nations. He said agreeing on the treaty would create an international order for conducting business, protecting rights and resolving disputes peacefully. “By joining the treaty we could lock in a favorable set of navigational freedoms and maximize U.S. influence in treaty bodies,” Kerry said. “Law of the Sea is fundamentally a conservative and modest treaty that supports the military and the economic interest of our nation.”
“The Law of the Sea Convention is overwhelmingly in the best interest of the United States,” Houck told an audience that included 120 members of the Navy League Board of Directors, as well as John Warner, former Virginia senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The potential rewards of the treaty are enormous and the so-called risks have been overstated,” Houck noted. “The navigation provisions are superb and give the United States clarity that is critical in an evolving international legal and political climate. The convention also gives us the only indisputable legal basis to move forward with our claims to the enormous resources of the extended continental shelf and deep seabed.”
The move to secure the Arctic goes well beyond domestic security. With easier access to the more than 90 billion barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in the Arctic, nations are rushing to gain international recognition of territorial claims, mineral contracts and shipping routes. ... The U.S. has been slow to stake out its own territory. While Russia has submitted a claim for thousands of miles of seabed, and Canada is asserting title to mineral-rich areas along the U.S. border, the United States is the only Arctic nation that has not ratified the 1982 treaty known as theUnited Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — the international mechanism for brokering such claims.
The Canadian government is near completion on its application to a UN commission to claim its extended continental shelf, and it holds the potential to expand the country’s ownership over seabed territory by up to 1.75 million square kilometres.
The government must submit the application, which according to the geologist in charge of the project, Dr. Jacob Verhoef, is thousands of pages long and includes 25 scientific reports, before the December 2013 deadline.
The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), an expert body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), will evaluate Canada’s application and render its binding recommendation on the outer limits of Canada’s extended continental shelf.
Ecuador is the latest country to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, making the U.S. the only coastal nation, and one of only 34 nations in the world, that has not ratified the treaty, according to a press release sent out Friday by the American Sovereignty Campaign. The treaty, formally called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, sets rules for the ownership of oceans, including international waterways, access to sub-sea resources, and marine boundaries. ... Proponents of the treaty believe that the U.S. will lose out on both environmental protections and potential resources if the treaty is not ratified. As nations clamor for the rights to untapped oil and natural gas beneath the ocean floor, the treaty will prove to be pivotal: The Law of the Sea can extend the rights of nations looking to claim sub-sea resources, as long as they can prove to the U.N. that the continental shelf - the underwater portion of the continent - extends to the desired area.
Ownership of the Arctic is governed by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which gives Arctic nations an exclusive economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles from land, and to undersea resources farther away so long as they are on a continental shelf. The far northern Arctic Ocean belongs to no country, and conditions there are severe. In a place where exact boundaries were never much of a concern, haggling over borders has begun among the primary nations — between Canada and Denmark, andthe United States and Canada, for example. The United States has been hampered in the current jockeying because the Senate has refused to ratify the Convention of the Law of the Sea, even though both the Bush and Obama administrations have strongly supported doing so. This means the United States has not been able to formally stake out its underwater boundaries. “We are being left behind,” Deputy Secretary Nides said.
The conference at Kings Bay also focused on the American Sovereignty Campaign, which is trying to encourage Congress to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty. The treaty would give U.S. businesses the legal certainty they need to invest in offshore oil, gas and mineral resources, improve national security and give the nation exclusive offshore access to resources. The treaty was initiated by the United Nations, and more than 160 nations have signed it. But the United States is one of only two NATO nations not to sign the agreement, which establishes offshore territorial boundaries and exclusive economic zones. Turkey is the other one. In the U.S., ratification of the treaty would take a two-thirds vote by the Senate. ... "I believe it has been in the best interest of the nation for quite some time," Roughead said. "I'm passionate about our right to operate at sea." Ratification will not affect the way Americans have operated at sea for the past two centuries, he said. "We are talking about billions or trillions of dollars," he said. "The convention actually enhances our claim. The convention gives us a lot more authority."
Excerpted from the article, "Former admiral notes impact of military cuts"
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says she's hopeful that the Law of the Sea Treaty will pass Congress in the lame-duck session after the election.... ... “This is a treaty that I believe very strongly will contribute not only to our national security, but will allow us a level of certainly in accessing our resources in the north,” Murkowski said.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she's hopeful the Senate will use the lame duck session after the November election to approve the Law of the Sea treaty. The Alaska Republican says signing the treaty would contribute to national security and allow a level of certainly in exploiting natural resources off the state's coast as meltingmakes more of the ocean accessible.