U.S. Control Over Extraterritorial Water Pollution: The Interplay Between International and Domestic Law

This comment written by staff member Kathryn Martin appeared in JNREL Vol. 22 No.2. The abstract was written by staff member Meghan Jackson.

As a result of today's ever-growing global economy, lawmakers are faced with the challenge of effectively regulating the activities of international businesses and adequately enforcing international laws without overstepping their respective jurisdictional boundaries. In an effort to ensure compliance with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and the Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (collectively MARPOL), the United States established the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (the APPS). The APPS requires ships entering U.S. territories to keep accurate oil record books, which are subject to inspection by U.S. authorities upon entering a U.S. port.

In United States v. Ionia Mgmt. S.A., 498 F.Supp.2d 477 (D.Conn. 2007), the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut upheld the authority of the United States to impose criminal penalties for violating the APPS. The defendant argued that according to the "law of the flag" doctrine, the United States was without jurisdictional authority to impose such penalties as the defendant flew a Greek flag. However, the court determined that since the violations (presenting false oil record books) occurred in a U.S. port, the United States had the jurisdictional authority to prosecute them regardless of where the actual oil discharges took place.

Ionia Mgmt. is an important decision as it impacts both environmental law and international law. First, it illustrates a growing trend among U.S. courts to view U.S. law and international law as working with each other, not against each other. In addition, it sends the message that U.S. courts are serious about enforcing the APPS and preventing environmental harm.