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)

| 27-Jun-2011
Canada’s Bear Creek Mining Corp. is threatening a legal challenge against Peru after its mining rights were revoked in a move that raises the risk for other resource companies doing business in the mineral-blessed South American country.
| 15-Jun-2011
The office of Ecuador’s Attorney General will represent Ecuador in Washington at a June 30 hearing in the arbitration case filed against the Andean country by US oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp.
PRNewswire | 6-Jan-2011
The Renco Group has served the Republic of Peru with a "Notice of Intent to Commence an International Arbitration Proceeding" under the US-Peru FTA for the Peruvian government’s alleged failure to remediate soils poisoned by Renco’s mining operations there.
| 11-Aug-2010
In a decision with implications for the national sovereignty of member states under US trade pacts, a World Bank tribunal has approved a Canadian mining company’s controversial lawsuit against the government of El Salvador.
Dow Jones | 3-Aug-2010
The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or Icsid, dismissed the claims lodged by Enron Creditors Recovery Corp and Ponderosa Assets L.P. late Friday.
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

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