Friday, November 24, 2006

China is polluting the Willamette River? Why not do something distinctly American and file a lawsuit?

Not likely, experts say. While the United States could technically have some recourse, the legal hurdles would be high and the political obstacles higher.

"I just can't imagine the United States or any other country bringing a case like this, given the increasing economic and political power of China," says Chris Wold, a Lewis & Clark Law School professor of international environmental law.

If Washington did bring a case to the International Court of Justice, Beijing would have to agree that the court had jurisdiction. The United States would have to prove that Chinese pollution caused specific damage.

Instead, the United States is providing aid and training to help China cut pollution, says Terry Keating, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist. Keating, who co-chairs the multination Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution, hopes for international agreements someday on transboundary contamination.

Some Oregon companies, such as Williams Controls Inc., which makes truck-throttle controls, sell products that reduce emissions in China. In China's biggest city, the Oregon-designed Shanghai Energy Resource Center displays energy-efficient technologies.

"We've been able to show that you can have an economy that grows and a population that grows," Keating says of the United States, "and still have air quality improving."

-- Richard Read


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