Thursday, March 10, 2016

Environmental Advocates Tell Congress: Reject the TPP

40 environmental groups have signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TransPacific Partnership. (Credit: Dylan Petrohilos/Think Progress) Click to Enlarge.
It’s something that all the major presidential candidates — on both sides of the aisle — can agree on:  The United States should not ratify the TransPacific Partnership trade agreement.  Even Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State during the bulk of the agreement’s confidential negotiations, doesn’t think the TPP is a good idea anymore.

Now, a group of environmental advocates is pressuring Congress to reject ratification of the 12-nation agreement, which they say would allow 9,000 companies operating on U.S. soil to sue the government for imposing environmental regulations.

Under the agreement’s investor-state dispute settlement clause, corporations can sue states for thwarting economic expectations.  The clause, known as ISDS, allows companies to file claims for damages or lost revenue incurred by rejected permits or a changed regulatory landscape.  The claims are heard by three-member tribunals, often made up of corporate lawyers, that operate independently.

Handing foreign companies equal — or even slightly advantageous — ground against the U.S. government, in an extra-judicial tribunal system, is not as far-fetched as it sounds.  TransCanada, the company that tried to build the Keystone XL pipeline, represents just one example of how the TPP would work.  The company has filed a claim under NAFTA for $15 billion in damages, alleging that U.S. denial of the permit was “arbitrary and unjustified.”

“For years, environmental and environmental justice groups have been warning against the threat of the TPP,” Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, told ThinkProgress.  The Keystone suit is “really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we could see if TPP were to pass through Congress.”

The Sierra Club was one of dozens of environmental groups who sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday, calling for opposition to both tar sands development and the TPP.

Among the groups standing with the Sierra Club are Bold Nebraska and the Indigenous Environmental Network, grassroots organizations that helped catalyze the popular movement against Keystone XL, a proposed pipeline that would have brought oil from Canada’s tar sands into the United States.

“The Obama Administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline was an execution of its legal right, done amidst widespread evidence that the project would hurt communities and the environment,” the letter says.  “It is therefore egregious that, under NAFTA, TransCanada can demand billions of dollars for a sound policy decision that is squarely within the U.S. law.”

But the Canadian tar sands developer isn’t the first company to use ISDS to extract cold, hard cash from countries it couldn’t get sweet crude from.

Read more at Environmental Advocates Tell Congress: Reject the TPP

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