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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
The issue of chlorinated chicken has become a major issue of concern in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) "free trade" talks between the U.S. and the European Union (EU). EU Observer explains, "U.S. poultry producers have fewer sanitary demands on conditions for chicken, because once the chickens are slaughtered, they are dipped in a bleaching solution which kills all germs and bacteria. The EU has banned imports of this kind of meat."
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Last October, an environment committee report for the European Parliament flagged this as a concern. Then in February, EU Observer noted, "A top EU official has sought to allay German fears about the U.S. being able to export bleached chicken ... to Europe once a free trade pact comes into force." And France 24 has reported, "Chicken washed in chlorine ... could be making their way into European supermarkets under a free trade agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and EU."
While European activists have rightly focused on this issue within TTIP, should similar concerns be expressed about the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)?
Yes, poultry was excluded in CETA, but Health Canada says of our regulations: "Poultry carcasses and parts are also permitted to be dipped, sprayed, or washed with water containing 20-50 mg total available chlorine/L (CFIA, 2004) or up to 10 mg/L for total available chlorine as hypochlorous acid, provided that treatment is followed by a rinse with potable water."
But if not chicken (for now), what about chlorinated beef?
Exporting more Canadian beef to Europe was a top demand of Canadian negotiators in the CETA talks. And CETA means that Canadian beef producers will be able sell an additional 50,000 tons of beef to Europe, which in Canada is washed and processed using chlorinated water. Our regulations state: “Beef must then be followed by a rinse with potable water or a similar appropriate measure to ensure that residues resulting from treatment are negligible (CFIA, 2004)."
It's also notable that the regulatory cooperation chapter in CETA inserts the Canadian beef industry more into the European regulatory process. CETA would also establish a separate "Joint Management Committee for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures", including plant and animal safety rules and food regulation. That Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures chapter also includes sections on equivalency of rules which could serve to erode the more stringent European food safety standards.
It should be highlighted that the EU appears to be heading down this path already. In Feb. 2013, before the TTIP negotiations began, EurActiv reported, "The European Union [has] dropped its ban on ... beef washed in lactic acid [which] is meant to show the Europeans are serious about a [TTIP] deal." The U.S. Mission to the European Union Foreign Agricultural Service notes, "Commission Regulation (EU) No 101/2013, published in the Official Journal on Feb. 5, 2013, allows the application of lactic acid as a pathogen reduction treatment (PRT) on beef carcasses, half-carcasses and beef quarters in the slaughterhouse. ...[This] will allow U.S. beef exporters to better take advantage of EU beef quotas, worth $700 million ..."
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This week, negotiators from the U.S. and the EU began their fifth round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Because the negotiations are all happening behind closed doors, the public is left largely in the dark about the content of the discussions. So what, exactly, do we know?
Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Tanker. Photo credit: FrackCheckWV
Officially, not much. But this week, an EU negotiation position "on raw materials and energy" was leaked to The Huffington Post. The text is nothing short of a wish list of demands from Big Oil and Gas, which will lock in any of their investments in fossil fuels in general, and shale gas and fracking in particular.
Article C of the document provides that no restrictions should apply to the "exports of energy goods" between the transatlantic trade partners. Any request, for example, for an export license to ship natural gas from the U.S. to the EU would be approved "automatically," no questions asked—even if this would lead to environmental damage from widespread use of fracking, increased gas prices for U.S. consumers, increased import dependency, and so on. It would lock in our mutual dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels at the expense of our climate. While it would lock in more business and better quarterly profits for Big Oil and Gas, it is hard to see how this serves the public interest.
The EU's ideas for free trade in energy with the U.S. would also be a frontal assault on the possibility for governments to impose a "public service obligation," requiring utility companies to deliver natural gas at certain prices to consumers, for example. Any such public service obligation should be "clearly defined and of limited duration" and also not be "more burdensome than necessary." With such vague wording, lawyers will have a field day to attack any price regulation in the energy sector.
This leak shows that civil society groups on both sides of the Atlantic have been right all along to be suspicious about what is being negotiated behind closed doors. The expression "No news is good news" clearly does not apply to the transatlantic free trade deal. The more we learn about the ongoing negotiations, the less we like it.
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