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)

HBF | 6-Feb-2014
New report from the Heinrich Boell Foundation reviews the implications of an investor-state dispute settlement provision in TTIP for environmental policies and standards
Global Policy Forum | 30-Jan-2014
Chemical firm uses trade pact to contest Environmental Law
The Australian | 17-Jan-2014
An American investor plans to invoke the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement to prevent the NSW government cancelling a coal exploration licence that the Independent Commission Against Corruption said is tainted by corruption and should be expunged.
Novethic | 15-Jan-2014
De part et d’autre de l’Atlantique, des dizaines d’ONG surveillent de près le partenariat transatlantique de commerce et d’investissement négocié actuellement entre l’Union européenne et les États-Unis. Dans leur collimateur, une clause défendant la protection des investisseurs au détriment de celle des citoyens et de l’environnement.
| 28-Dec-2013
A shareholder from the United Kingdom of the company Progas Pakistan has initiated international arbitration proceedings of $573 million against Pakistan for alleged expropriation of its LPG infrastructure in Karachi and the government has decided to vigorously contest the case.
Democracy Now | 28-Dec-2013
A court in Canada has ruled Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen can try to seize the assets of oil giant Chevron based on a 2011 decision in an Ecuadorean court found it liable for nearly three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells, and said it had ruined the health and livelihoods of people living in nearby areas of the Amazon rainforest.
Amigos de la Tierra | 19-Dec-2013
Amigos de la Tierra alerta de que los inversores podrían tener más poder que gobiernos e instituciones democráticamente elegidos.
Reuters | 13-Nov-2013
Ecuador’s highest court upheld a verdict that US oil company Chevron Corp is responsible for pollution in an Amazon rainforest, but halved the fine imposed in a previous trial to $9.5 billion, a decision the company dismissed as illegitimate.
| 3-Nov-2013
Argentina has agreed to settle five separate investment treaty arbitration claims at a cost of around USD 500 million, in an historic departure from the Latin American state’s refusal to comply with awards made by international investment treaty arbitration bodies.
| 20-Jul-2013
The Turkish power firm Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim (KKEU) has approached the Washington based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against Pakistan’s water and power ministry and also served a Rs33billion damage notice on the ministry, sources said on Wednesday.

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