There is a clause in many “free-trade” agreements allowing corporations to sue governments in corporate courts for passing laws, regulating and other things that might limit their profits. Never mind if the people of a country want to do something to make their own lives better; these agreements say that their governments have to pay corporations if they do.
These “investor protection” provisions even let tobacco companies sue governments that try to help people quit smoking – even for discouraging children from starting!
Recent cases like this include a Canadian oil company suing the U.S. government for not letting it build a pipeline across our country so they can sell oil to China. They include Mexican and Canadian meat packaging corporations suing to force the U.S. to stop country-of-origin labeling (COOL) of meats. They include big Mexican seafood corporations suing to force a halt to “dolphin-safe” labels on tuna cans.
Corporation Threatens Suit Over Blocking Huge Open-Pit Mine In Pristine Wilderness
Now this: Northern Dynasty Minerals is threatening a lawsuit against the U.S. government for not approving a permit allowing them to dig one of the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mines in Alaska’s Bristol Bay wilderness.
The Pebble Mine would have produced as much as 10 billion tons of contaminated waste (3,000 pounds for every person on Earth.) The mine threatened one of the world’s most valuable salmon habitats and the corresponding fishing industry. The Bristol Bay wilderness is home to grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, wolverines, foxes, otters, moose, and many more species, making it a major tourist area. These animals also depend on clean water.
Northern Dynasty is threatening to sue for a massive payout unless the government changes course. The infamous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enables them to do this.
The Huffington Post has the story, in “Pebble Mine: Canadian Mining Company Threatens to Stick U.S. Taxpayers with Costs of “Potentially Catastrophic” Mining Scheme“:
According to the company’s lawyers, Northern Dynasty is prepared to file a claim for “arbitration” under NAFTA, seeking compensation for the failure of the Pebble Mine project to move forward to federal permitting. The basis? That the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has acted in a “grossly abusive, arbitrary, and deliberately opaque manner,” in breach of due process, U.S. statutes, and “Northern Dynasty’s legitimate expectations . . . .”
In the ensuing 42 pages, the letter lays out the basis for Northern Dynasty’s astonishing claim that NAFTA entitles it to a bailout based on EPA’s alleged efforts to prevent it from pursuing its scheme to develop a copper and gold mega-mine in the headwaters of the greatest wild salmon fishery on Earth.
A huge, dirty, polluting open-pit mine in one of the last pristine wildernesses on Earth? The waste from the mine threatens an entire fishing industry. But a big corporation is able to sue our government for not issuing a permit for this outrageous and dangerous scheme.
That is what these “free trade” deals are about – placing corporate profits for a few already-wealthy investors (“Wall Street”) over sovereign governments, their people and the planet’s environment.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is another huge “free-trade” deal with similar provisions placing corporate profits above the sovereignty of governments. There is a drumbeat being engineered by corporations, Wall Street and the Obama administration to force a vote on the TPP during the “lame duck” session of Congress after the election. Holding this vote at that time would mean there is very little accountability to the public, but a lot of opportunity for passing around corporate largesse. Call your member of Congress and your senators to let them know how you feel about this idea.
This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on June 15, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.
Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.