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)

Client Earth | 2-Sep-2021
Environmental organisations have hailed a court decision that could mean the end of a little-known legal mechanism that poses a massive threat to climate action.
OpinioJuris | 26-Aug-2021
The new resource extraction regime continued to consolidate through the approval of new development plans, new standards, and the signing of international investment agreements.
Reuters | 24-Aug-2021
A US government watchdog found multiple problems with the construction, manufacture and design of the Keystone pipeline.
Emerging Europe | 24-Aug-2021
Kazakhstan has welcomed what it calls an opportunity for an independent arbitral tribunal to carry out “a free and fair review of the Statis’ fraud”.
Rabble.ca | 23-Aug-2021
As governments try to phase out coal and leave fossil fuels in the ground, lawsuits from industry investors are starting to pile up around them.
The Ecologist | 20-Aug-2021
Governments must urgently terminate all international investment treaties in force, in particular the Energy Charter Treaty, and stop negotiating new ones.
Euractiv | 19-Aug-2021
Les ONG environnementales slovènes ont appelé le ministre de l’Infrastructure Jernej Vrtovec à faire usage du statut de la Slovénie, à la tête de la présidence de l’UE, pour la sortie du bloc du Traité sur la charte de l’énergie.
Euractiv | 19-Aug-2021
Slovenian environmental NGOs have called on infrastructure minister Jernej Vrtovec to use the country’s EU presidency to propose a political discussion on the bloc exiting the Energy Charter Treaty.
The Ecologist | 19-Aug-2021
Tackling trade and investment agreements must be an essential step in achieving justice-oriented action on climate change, health inequities and economic injustice.
Proactive | 18-Aug-2021
Pathfinder Minerals PLC has gained ground after some progress towards settling a dispute in Mozambique.

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