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)

Scoop | 30-Jun-2015
The Australian government misrepresents the claims of critics and fails to address substantial criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership, says civil society network AFTINET.
rabble.ca | 9-Jun-2015
What do we call it when Ottawa signs a deal with an unelected regime that would prevent any future elected government in a small African nation from changing its laws regulating Canadian-owned mines for almost two decades?
| 15-May-2015
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes hears its first case outside of US, France
Mining Watch | 12-May-2015
In anticipation of an imminent ruling from a little-known arbitration tribunal at the World Bank that could force El Salvador to pay Canadian-Australian mining firm OceanaGold US$301 million, a Salvadoran delegation is visiting Canada to discuss how investor-state arbitration threatens democratic decision-making, public health and the environment here and beyond our borders.
Global Arbitration News | 6-May-2015
The Italian government has recently declared its withdrawal from the Energy Charter Treaty (“ECT”).
ITUC | 15-Apr-2015
The International Trade Union Confederation calls on the government of El Salvador to denounce all treaties establishing ISDS proceedings.
Equal Times | 15-Apr-2015
The Central American state of El Salvador could be forced to pay US$301 million in damages to an Australian-Canadian mining company, OceanaGold, after the company’s application for a mining license was rejected on the basis of the projected environmental damage it would cause.
Amazon Watch | 9-Apr-2015
An apparent Chevron whistleblower has sent Amazon Watch dozens of internal company videos showing Chevron employees and consultants manipulating evidence linked to the oil giant’s extensive contamination - and legal dispute - in Ecuador.
Huffington Post | 28-Mar-2015
In Chevron’s massive international arbitration directly against the government of Ecuador, it has gotten everything it has asked for from the panel of arbitrators — until last week.
Economic Times | 25-Mar-2015
Cairn Plc is seeking compensation from the government of India for the steep fall in the value of its shares in Vedanta-controlled Cairn India, which it is not allowed to sell until it settles a controversial retrospective tax demand of $1.60 billion, under the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty.

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