Energy & environment

Most investor-state disputes (ISDS) have concerned environmental matters. Corporations are using the ISDS system found in trade and investment agreements to challenge environmental policies. As of end of 2019, 41% of all ICSID cases were energy and natural resources-related.

Most well-known cases include:

• Lone Pine Resources (US) vs. Canada: the investor challenged Quebec’s moratorium on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas. The provincial government declared the moratorium in 2011 so as to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the extraction method widely accused of leaching chemicals and gases into groundwater and the air. Case pending (NAFTA invoked).

• Bilcon (US) vs. Canada: the US industry challenged Canadian environmental requirements affecting their plans to open a basalt quarry and a marine terminal in Nova Scotia. In 2015 the ISDS tribunal decided that the government’s decision hindered the investors’ expectations. Bilcon won and received US$7 million in damages, plus interest (NAFTA invoked).

• Vattenfall (Sweden) vs. Germany: in 2007 the Swedish energy corporation was granted a provisional permit to build a coal-fired power plant near the city of Hamburg. In an effort to protect the Elbe river from the waste waters dumped from the plant, environmental restrictions were added before the final approval of its construction. The investor initiated a dispute, arguing it would make the project unviable. The case was ultimately settled in 2011, with the city of Hamburg agreeing to the lowering of environmental standards (ECT invoked).

Photo: Kris Krug / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

(March 2020)

Change.org | 20-Apr-2010
Litigation over the ecological disaster that is Lago Agrio has produced a decades-long narrative that rivals Finnegans Wake in complexity.
The Indypendent | 2-Mar-2010
Cameron should put the money made from the blockbuster where it’s needed most: into indigenous communities struggling for the conservation of their land and livelihood.
ITN | 13-Jan-2010
Spanish firms Abengoa, S.A. and COFIDES, S.A. have launched a claim with ICSID against Mexico over the stalled opening of a toxic waste disposal plant built by them in the municipality of Zimapán, approximately 200 kilometres north of Mexico City.
ITN | 7-Dec-2009
German investor Reinhard Unglaube, a resident of Costa Rica, has commenced arbitration against his host country over the latter’s refusal to grant the appropriate permits to extend his eco-tourist hotel complex in Playa Grande, Costa Rica.
Reuters | 11-Jun-2009
A unit of Goldcorp has lost a bid to get $50 million in compensation after a US trade tribunal rejected claims the gold miner’s operations were hampered by environmental regulations
| 3-Apr-2009
Dow AgroSciences is mulling over a NAFTA challenge to Quebec’s law banning the cosmetic use of pesticides, setting a spotlight on one of the most controversial clauses of the trade agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Upside Down World | 22-Dec-2008
A Canadian mining company intends to sue El Salvador’s government for several hundred million dollars if it is not granted permission to open a widely unpopular gold and silver mine that scientists warn would have devastating effects on local water supplies.
| 13-Dec-2008
A Canadian mining company and its American subsidiary have threatened the government of El Salvador with a lawsuit after it failed to receive regulatory approval to begin digging for gold and silver in an area some 65 km from San Salvador. The proposed mine has drawn intense opposition from civil society and church-based groups, although the mining company maintains that it enjoys broad public support in El Salvador.
IISD | 3-Dec-2008
In a 12 November 2008 final award, an ICSID tribunal has dismissed all claims by two Italian investors, L.E.S.I S.p.A. and ASTALI S.p.A, in a dispute with the government of Algeria over a failed contract to construct a hydraulic dam.
Diario Colatino | 10-Jul-2008
¿No será que el anuncio de retirada de Pacific Rim es una acción táctica de su estrategia de presión? Eso parece demostrar cuando envía a un grupo de supuestos trabajadores mineros a protestar por la pérdida de sus empleos, y cuando amenaza al gobierno con acogerse a las reglas del CAFTA para obligarlo a pagar millonarias indemnizaciones

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