A proposal requiring international environmental impact statements for U.S. exports drew praise from environmentalists yesterday but was attacked by businessmen who said it would result in lost sales to other countries.
The fuss, which went before a Senate subcommittee yesterday, was stirred up last winter when the Council on Environmental Quolity tried to extend to the Export-Import Bank requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The act says government agencies must prepare environmental impact statements on their major actions.
The bank, which extends credit to promote U.S. trade, resisted on grounds it would hurt trade and that NEPA should not apply outside the United States. The impact statements would be made available to purchasers of U.S. goods.
A private group filed suit to try to force the Ex-Im Bank to comply with NEPA, and the Senate Banking Committee recently approved a bill containing a provision exempting the bank from coverage of the act in its overseas affairs.NEPA comes within the jurisdiction of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, which held yesterday's hearings. The bank and other government agencies involved will testify next month.
A panel of businessmen denounced the proposal. Calvin A. Miller, an official of a machine tool company who was speaking for the National Association of Manufacturers, said it would cost time, money, jobs and contracts and would worsen the U.S. balance of payments deficit.
Richard L. Dailey of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States called the proposal a "veiled form of interventionism." Other opponents repeated this argument that giving another nation a statement of possible damages that American products might do to their environment constituted interference with their internal affairs.
Russell Train, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said this wasn't true. The proposal would not impose U.S. standards on other countries but simply give them information, he said. The information should be given, he said, because environmental damage can cross national boundaries.
James N. Barnes, an attorney speaking for several environmental groups, said the Agency for International Development prepares environmental impact statements for its major foreign aid projects without problems. He said AID's work is comparable to that of the Ex-Im Bank. Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R.-Wyo.) said he felt there was considerable difference between men competing for contracts abroad.