Quantcast

This morning, as the most recent round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and European Union (EU) began in Brussels, the Guardian reported a leaked document from the EU that reveals its intentions to include new, dangerous language in the proposed energy chapter of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Greensefa / Wikimedia

A Sierra Club analysis of the leaked TTIP proposal finds that it would:

• Require the U.S. and the EU "to eliminate all existing restrictions on the export of natural gas in trade between" the two parties;

• Undermine clean energy policies, such as renewable portfolio standards or feed-in tariffs, by stating that electricity utilities in the U.S. and the EU shall not discriminate "between types of energy" in granting access to the electrical grid;

• Obligate the U.S. and the EU to "foster industry self-regulation" on energy efficiency rather than using mandatory requirements that oblige corporations to boost the energy efficiency of their products; and

• Threaten protections against destructive extraction of fossil fuels and natural resources in countries outside of the U.S. and EU.

"This leaked document goes farther than any past leaked or publicly available TTIP document on energy to reveal the threat that the deal poses to our efforts to protect our climate by fully transitioning to clean energy," Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program, said.

"For example, never before have we seen a more explicit and sweeping assertion that all gas export restrictions in the United States should be wiped out under TTIP—a nightmare that would be a giant leap backward in our fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This leak, along with the similarly toxic Trans-Pacific Partnership, shows the immediate need for a new model of trade that protects working families, healthy communities and our climate."

The leaked document, is the EU's proposal for a Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials, sent from the European Commission to the Trade Policy Committee of the European Council on June 20. A cover note states that the textual proposal "is to be submitted to the United States in advance of the next negotiation round," which began today. The Sierra Club's analysis on key aspects of today's leak can be found here. This is the latest in a string of uncovered TTIP documents. Other leaked TTIP energy proposals include a September 2013 leaked document and a May 2014 leaked document.

The leaked TTIP proposal would:

Require unfettered gas exports

The EU uses a note in the leaked text to state that TTIP "must" include "a legally binding commitment to eliminate all existing restrictions on the export of natural gas in trade between" the U.S. and EU (see initial "disclaimer.") This sweeping TTIP obligation would "eliminate," the ability of the U.S. Department of Energy to determine whether it is in the public interest to export liquefied natural gas (LNG)—a fossil fuel with high climate emissions—to the EU, the world's third-largest LNG importer. If included, this TTIP rule would facilitate increased LNG exports, greater dependency on a climate-disrupting fossil fuel, more fracking and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure.

• Undermine clean energy policies

The leaked TTIP proposal could undermine U.S. and EU policies that encourage clean energy production, such as renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to increase electricity from renewable sources or feed-in tariffs that give wind and solar power producers preferential access to the electrical grid. The EU's TTIP proposal includes a new provision stating that electricity utilities in the U.S. and EU shall not discriminate "between types of energy" in granting access to the electrical grid, even though that is the very purpose of such U.S. and EU policies that require utilities to favor clean energy over electricity from dirty fossil fuels. The leaked text only allows "limited" exceptions to this rule. To qualify for such an exception, a government could have to prove to a TTIP tribunal that its clean energy policy was "necessary," "objective" and "legitimate"—hurdles that public interest policies have failed to meet in past trade challenges (see Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials, Article 4.)

• Obligating the U.S. and the EU to "foster industry self-regulation" on energy efficiency

Another new EU proposal for TTIP states that the U.S. and EU "shall foster industry self-regulation of energy efficiency requirements" rather than using "mandatory requirements" that oblige corporations to boost the energy efficiency of their products (see Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials, Article 6.2.) The text prescribes this "self-regulating" approach when it "is likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a less costly manner" than actually requiring corporations to comply with energy efficiency policies. This provision could threaten the minimum efficiency requirements that the U.S. Department of Energy imposes through its Appliance and Equipment Standards Program on more than 60 types of appliances and equipment, from refrigerators to furnaces, which save consumers billions of dollars while cutting hundreds of millions of tons of climate pollution each year.

• Undermine protections against destructive extraction

The proposed TTIP text includes a new provision that would encourage the U.S. and the EU to jointly pressure countries around the world to abandon protections against destructive extractive activities. The provision states that the U.S. and EU "shall cooperate" to "reduce or eliminate trade and investment distorting measures in third countries affecting energy and raw materials" (see Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials, Article 8). That is, the U.S. and EU must try to reduce or eliminate environmental policies in non-TTIP countries if they inhibit trade or investment in fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas; natural resources like wood; and minerals like copper and lead (all of which are included in the text's definitions of "energy" and "raw materials"—see Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials, Annex I). Such TTIP-required pressure from the U.S. and EU would threaten many countries' protections against fossil fuel extraction, logging and mining. This dangerous TTIP proposal undercuts the text's weak proposal for the U.S. and EU to cooperate to "promote" positive goals such as "corporate social responsibility," "the efficient use of resources" and "safety and environmental protection for offshore oil, gas and mining operations" (see Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials, Article 8).

• Read the Sierra Club's report on how TTIP and TPP investment rules would empower major polluters to challenge U.S. climate protections in private tribunals here: sc.org/climate-roadblocks


Hillary Clinton sits down for an interview with Zach Galifianakis on his web comedy series, Between Two Ferns. Funny or Die / YouTube

In the latest episode of Zach Galifianakis' web comedy series, the comedian and star of The Hangover trilogy invited Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to sit Between Two Ferns to answer some questions no one else would dare ask her on camera.

The show is anything but serious and gave Clinton the opportunity to showcase a playful side to her personality.

Read More

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth Action

The same day TransCanada sued the U.S. government for $15 billion, the Democratic Party's platform drafting committee met in Missouri. Between the two, there is a lesson to be learned about free trade and the climate crisis.

The lawsuit was the anticipated result of President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.Using a notorious provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canadian oil giant is hoping to claim $15 billion in lost future profits by dragging the U.S. before an international tribunal. These sorts of extra-judicial forums, where corporations can sue governments for enforcing their own laws, are a hallmark of established free trade deals like NAFTA and looming ones like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Forty environmental groups signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TransPacific Partnership. Dylan Petrohilos / Think Progress

The meeting in Missouri was to finalize a draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, a usually sleepy and symbolic process that this year has exploded into a proxy fight between presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pipelines like Keystone XL and free trade writ large were both on the agenda—and the votes cast reflect a growing divide between the party establishment and the grassroots.

Within hours of TransCanada filing its lawsuit under NAFTA, the platform committee had the chance to officially oppose the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade deal that would allow hundreds of new fossil fuel companies access to provisions similar to those used by TransCanada. The motion was rejected. Despite both candidates being on record opposing the current TPP, the motion was rejected in a 10-5 vote. It was supported by appointees from Sanders and opposed by appointees from Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Compromise language was offered instead, calling for trade deals that protect workers and the environment without mentioning the TPP by name.

Talking about responsible trade but refusing to be clear about the TPP isn't a good look, for the DNC or anyone else. If the TPP and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, were both enacted, it would radically expand the power of fossil fuel companies to sue the U.S. for laws and regulations that hurt their expected future profits. The power to launch lawsuits like TransCanada's would be put on steroids and everything fromlocal fracking bans to renewable energy mandates could be litigated in trade tribunals run overwhelmingly by corporate lawyers.

Besides missing the boat on trade, the committee managed a few other favors for the TransCanadas of the world. Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska and the newly elected Chair of Nebraska Democrats, supported a motion calling for ending the use of eminent domain in support of fossil fuel projects. It was unceremoniously voted down. Another rejected motion was an endorsement of the so-called "climate test," the principle that infrastructure and other projects shouldn't be approved if they worsen carbon emissions. Applying this standard was what led President Obama to reject Keystone XL in the first place.

In fact, Friday turned out to be a bad night for serious climate policy all around. Motions pushed by Sanders's appointee Bill McKibben supporting a carbon tax and a national frackingban were both rejected. So too was a motion to keep fossil fuels in the ground by ending new leasing on our public lands and waters.

Even the ambitious energy target supported by both Clinton and Sanders—100 percent clean energy by 2050—wasn't an unqualified success. The language is vague enough that it could include everything from wind and solar to dangerous false solutions like biomass, carbon capture and sequestration and nukes.

The concern about what exactly counts as clean energy isn't unfounded. If Bill McKibben was chosen by Sanders as a progressive voice on climate, his alter ego appointed by Clinton is Carol Browner, a one-time Environmental Protection Agency administrator who splits her time these days between professional lobbying and pro-nuclear advocacy.

The good news is that Missouri isn't the end. The platform still needs to be approved by the full platform committee next month in Orlando and after that by the full convention in Philadelphia. When it comes to pushing back on trade and climate, there are still two more shots.

As philosopher Dr. Cornel West, another Sen. Sanders appointee, said as he abstained from the final vote, "Take it to the next stage."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Oakland Bans Coal Exports, Huge Win for Local Residents

Kochs Dump Trump to Fund Climate-Denying Senators in Ohio and Nevada

'Three Amigos' Vow to Get Half Their Electricity From Clean Power by 2025

DNC Platform Calls for Fossil Fuel Investigations, 100% Renewable Energy

Sponsored

The acquisition of Chiquita Brands International by two Brazilian firms not only increases the consolidation of our food supply, but could have devastating consequences for the state of North Carolina and its residents. The Brazilian juice giant Cutrale Group and investment firm the Safra Group have completed their acquisition of Chiquita Brands International, whose headquarters is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. This development is the latest in a cascade of food mergers that threaten to undermine farmers around the world and consumer choice as control of the food supply concentrates in the hands of a few powerful corporations.

Overseas ownership of yet another large food company further complicates an already complex supply chain, shielding company practices from public scrutiny and raising the stakes for consumers when food safety problems occur.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

This latest cross-border acquisition will hit home in other ways as well—Chiquita Brands International employs 300 people at its Charlotte headquarters, most of whom are expected to lose their jobs, according to early news reports. While Charlotte and Mecklenburg County will be refunded the more than one million dollars in economic development incentives provided to the company, those employees who stand to lose their jobs may not fare quite as well.

Over the years Chiquita Brands have become synonymous with union busting on their banana plantations and other questionable labor practices. The company’s new owners have a troubling labor track record of their own, including violating Brazilian wage and labor laws and violations of U.S. worker safety standards at their juice plants in Florida.

Overseas ownership of yet another large food company further complicates an already complex supply chain, shielding company practices from public scrutiny and raising the stakes for consumers when food safety problems occur.

International mergers such as this one are made easier by our failed trade policies. With President Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress moving forward with plans to fast track more bad trade deals, it is important to remember that these deals lead to lost jobs here in the United States. We urge Congress to reject giving fast track authority to President Obama, nix bad trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and to strengthen the Clayton Act in order to protect farmers and consumers from further corporate consolidation efforts.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Why Chipotle’s Pork Problem Is Good for Farmers

How Regenerative Organic Agriculture Can Save the Planet

12 Ways to Rid the Planet of GMOs and Monsanto’s Roundup

Sponsored

As the U.S. and European Union (EU) governments continue negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), environmental organizations are growing more concerned about a loophole that could leave the door open for expanded fracking in both regions.

According to a report released today from Friends of the Earth Europe, the Sierra Club, Corporate Europe Observatory and others, the pending TTIP contains language that could allow energy companies to take governments to private arbitrators if they try to regulate or ban fracking. Now, campaigners in Europe and the U.S. are fighting to eliminate such rights from the trade deal. 

“Giving companies more rights as part of the EU-U.S. trade deal would undermine Europe’s growing resistance to fracking," said Antoine Simon of Friends of the Earth Europe. "Energy companies must not be given the power to challenge democratically agreed laws that safeguard the environment and citizen health.

"Put simply, this puts profits before people, democracy and the planet.”

Graphic credit: Friends of the Earth Europe

The report, "No Fracking Way," states that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause would enable corporations to claim damages in secret courts or arbitration panels if they believe their profits are adversely affected by changes in a regulation or policy. Those companies could seek compensation through private international tribunals. U.S. firms or those with a subsidiary in the U.S. that invest in Europe could also use those rights to seek compensation for future bans or other regulation on fracking. The arbitrators are mainly set up for investment cases and not part of the normal judicial system, according to the report.

“Trade should help strengthen economies while protecting families and communities—it should never put them at risk," Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club's responsible trade program, said. "The egregious Lone Pine lawsuit shows how investor-state dispute settlement threatens people and our environment by letting big corporations attack common-sense policies. We need protections from dangerous practices like fracking, and big oil and gas corporations shouldn’t use trade as the trump card to get their way.”

The report points out several other examples, including Swedish energy giant Vattenfall's request of the equivalent of nearly $5.1 billion from Germany to compensate for the country's voted to phase out nuclear power.

Graphic credit: Friends of the Earth Europe

In the U.S., some individual cities and states are taking notice of the dangers of fracking. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved a moratorium on fracking within city limits. The decision made Los Angeles the nation's largest city to approve such a ruling.

Four days before that, groups in Colorado launched a ballot initiative that would essentially give residents control over fracking within their communities.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.