Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic Trade Deals Would Empower World’s Largest Polluters
By Dan Byrnes for The Sierra Club
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After trade took center stage in the first presidential debate earlier this week, the Sierra Club today released a new map that reveals the coast-to-coast environmental threats of two pending trade deals — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — showcasing for the first time what the Sierra Club calls #ToxicTrade.
“From gas power plants peppering California and Massachusetts to oil trains rolling through the Pacific Northwest to fracking in Colorado, dirty fossil fuel projects owned by multinational corporations from TPP and TTIP countries are a threat to clean air and water across the country. Toxic trade deals shouldn’t empower these corporations to undermine community efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. “This map is the first comprehensive look at the polluter power-grabs that the TPP and TTIP would enable — for the first time it gives people a chance to see if toxic trade is in their own backyard.”
As part of the Sierra Club’s educational campaign to to spotlight the threats of #ToxicTrade, thisinteractive map plots over 400 dirty fossil fuel projects across 48 states that would get extraordinary protections under the TPP and TTIP. This includes:
- More than 300 polluting facilities, including over 70 coal mines, 30 oil refineries, and more than 100 gas power plants;
- Tens of thousands of miles of fossil fuel pipelines and oil trains;
- More than 10.8 million acres of oil and gas drilling leases; and
- Fracking operations from California to Pennsylvania.
Each of these fossil fuel projects is owned or operated by multinational corporations that could sue the U.S. government in private tribunals over new climate and environmental protections if Congress were to pass the TPP and TTIP. For the first time, these corporations could ask unaccountable panels of corporate lawyers to order U.S. government compensation if such protections interfered with any of their widespread fossil fuel projects. Even worse, these deals would enable the corporations to use the threat of such cases to try to deter U.S. efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This map is the most exhaustive presentation of this data ever available.
“A map should help you find a sense of direction, and this one points us to the only path forward: stopping the TPP,” said Ben Beachy, senior policy advisor for the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. “Instead of giving more power to fossil fuel corporations, we need to map out a new model of trade that puts people before polluters and paves the way for more climate action.”
The extraordinary rights given to multinational corporations in the TPP and proposed for TTIP virtually replicate those in past pacts that have enabled corporations to launch more than 700 cases against more than 100 governments in private tribunals. In one highly publicized example, TransCanada is using NAFTA to ask an unaccountable tribunal of corporate lawyers to order the U.S. government to pay $15 billion for rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The TPP and TTIP would more than double the number of fossil fuel corporations that could follow TransCanada’s example and use unaccountable tribunals as a backdoor way to challenge U.S. policies that keep fossil fuels in the ground and protect our air, water, communities, and climate.
The new map reveals that many of the fossil fuel corporations that the TPP and TTIP would empower to challenge U.S. environmental protections are among the largest polluters in the country. Here are a few examples:
- California: The TPP would empower corporations like Japan-based Mitsubishi – which owns gas power plants from Alameda to San Diego – to ask a panel of corporate lawyers to order compensation from U.S. taxpayers for new state limits on greenhouse gas emissions. TTIP would extend this power to corporations like Netherlands-based Shell, whose California investments include five gas plants, eight gas processing facilities, fracking operations, an oil refinery that is the state’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, and a crude oil pipeline notorious for recent leaks.
- Colorado: The TPP would empower Australia and Japan-based firms fracking on Colorado’s Niobrara Shale to use threats of costly private tribunal challenges as a tool to deter new fracking restrictions that have been proposed by Colorado activists.
- Gulf Coast states: The TPP would empower 11 multinational oil and gas corporations that have offshore drilling leases across almost 1 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to sue the U.S. in private tribunals over new protections against offshore drilling. TTIP would grant the same power to notorious offshore drilling firms such as BP, based in the United Kingdom, and Shell.
- Massachusetts: The TPP and TTIP would empower fossil fuel corporations to sue the U.S. in unaccountable tribunals if Massachusetts were to place new restrictions on the emissions of their gas power plants. This includes Japan-based Itochu Corporation, part owner of a gas plant in Pittsfield, and France-based Engie, which owns gas plants in Bellingham and Blackstone – the state’s third- and fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitting facilities.
- Oregon: The TPP would enable Japan-based Sumitomo Corporation to challenge Oregon climate policies in private tribunals on behalf of its gas power plant in Hermiston. TTIP would extend this power to Spain-based Iberdrola, which owns a gas plant in Klamath Falls – the state’s fifth-largest climate polluter. TTIP also would enable corporations to launch such cases against Oregon’s proposed protections against oil trains – indeed, the oil train that derailed in Oregon in June of this year was carrying oil for a corporation that TTIP would empower to challenge oil train restrictions in unaccountable tribunals.