The Trans-Pacific Partnership
Would Threaten the Environment - Affecting the Water We Drink and the Air We Breathe
The TPP could sharply increase U.S. exports of natural gas - creating incentives for more fracking. The Department of Energy could lose its authority to regulate exports of natural gas to countries that have signed a "free trade" agreement with the U.S. that includes "national treatment for trade in gas." The TPP could eliminate the government's prerogative to determine whether the mass export of natural gas to TPP countries - including Japan, the world's largest natural gas importer - is in the public interest. The resulting surge in natural gas exports would not only raise gas and electricity prices for consumers, but would ramp up the dangerous, chemical-laden practice of fracking.
Through the "investor-state" system, the TPP would allow corporations operating in TPP countries to launch a case against domestic environmental laws that they see as inhibiting "expected future profits."
Governments have paid over $440 million to foreign corporations in investor-state disputes under existing U.S. trade and investment deals. Over 85% has been handed to corporations attacking oil, mining, gas, and other environmental and natural resource policies. This includes the Mexican government paying the U.S. Metalclad firm over denial of an operating permit for a contaminated toxic waste facility and the Canadian government paying U.S. firms Abitibi-Bowater over water rights, SD Meyers over a ban on trans-boundary trade in hazardous waste implemented under the Basel Convention, and Pope and Talbot over timber policy. Exxon-Mobil just won a case over a Canadian province's offshore oil regulations and a case has been filed against Quebec's moratorium on fracking.
Corporations have also used investor-state cases as pressure tactics to avoid having to pay for environmental damages. After an 18-year struggle to get Chevron to clean up billions of gallons of toxics it released into Amazonian streams and rivers used by local inhabitants for drinking water and into open pools in the jungle, an Ecuadorean court ordered the corporation to pay $18 billion for cleanup. Chevron turned to an "investor-state" tribunal under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty as a last chance to evade justice. In February 2012, that tribunal ordered Ecuador's government to interfere with the country's independent court system to halt enforcement of the ruling. Though an Ecuadorean court rejected the tribunal's order, the tribunal may still prevent the cleanup from starting if its ruling is recognized by other countries whose cooperation is needed to collect the $18 billion from Chevron.
Even the mere threat of an investor-state loss can pressure governments to weaken environmental and health policies. In the 1990s, a U.S. chemical company called Ethyl Corporation challenged a Canadian environmental ban of the gasoline additive MMT, considered a dangerous toxin, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) investor-state provisions. Although many U.S. states ban the substance and the investor-state tribunal made no final ruling, an intermediate loss was enough to push the Canadian government to revoke the ban, settle with the foreign corporation for $13 million in taxpayer compensation and issue a public statement that the chemical was safe.