WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An electronic copy of a quietly filed lawsuit has been unearthed, exposing a $250 million lawsuit against the Canadian government by American oil and gas company Lone Pine Resources. The company is using the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to challenge Quebec’s moratorium on oil and gas fracking beneath the St. Lawrence River.
Fracking, the dirty and destructive process of dislodging gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. Quebec placed a moratorium on fracking below the St. Lawrence River in 2011 to allow for time to evaluate the public health and environmental concerns surrounding fracking.
“Based on the principle of precaution, Quebec government’s response to the concerns of its population is appropriate and legitimate”, said Martine Châtelain, president of Eau secours!, the Quebec-based coalition for a responsible management of water. “No companies should be allowed to sue a State when it implements sovereign measures to protect water and the common goods for the sake of our ecosystems and the health of our peoples.”
On September 6, but just now discovered, Lone Pine quietly submitted its formal request for arbitration against Canada. Using this tactic, Lone Pine lawyers will make their case against the fracking moratorium before a panel of three private sector attorneys behind closed doors.
“Quebec’s moratorium on fracking is legal and supported strongly by the public. Corporate profit should never get in the way of environmental and public health safeguards. It’s outrageous to even think that we may have to pay Lone Pine not to drill in the St. Lawrence River. Trade rules shouldn’t be used to appease the whims of dirty oil and gas companies,” said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
There are likely to be more cases like this if trade pacts currently being negotiated are signed into law. For example, the text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership between the U.S., Canada, and 10 other nations, is expected to closely mirror NAFTA’s investment rules, while Canada is in the final stretch for a deal with the European Union (CETA) that would also provide those excessive powers to multinationals.
“This egregious lawsuit -- which Lone Pine Resources must drop -- highlights just how vulnerable public interest policies are as a result of trade and investment pacts,” said Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program Director. “Governments should learn from this and other similar cases and stop writing investment rules that empower corporations to attack environmental laws and policies.”
In fall 2012, energy company Lone Pine Resources announced it planned to challenge Quebec’s fracking moratorium using an investment protection chapter in NAFTA. Lone pine is registered in Delaware but maintains all its operations in Canada. The Council of Canadians, the Réseau québécois sur l'Intégration continentale (RQIC), the Sierra Club, For Love of Water (FLOW), Eau Secours!, and AmiEs de la Terre responded by collecting signatures on a letter asking Lone Pine to drop plans to sue Canada under the investment chapter of the North American Free Trade Agreement. With each 1,000 new signatures, a letter was sent to Lone Pine executives demanding they abandon the $250-million claim. The groups have collected close to 4,500 signatures.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.
About Council of Canadians
Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada’s leading social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country. Through our campaigns we advocate for clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, and a vibrant democracy. We educate and empower people to hold our governments and corporations accountable.
About SOS Water Coalition Eau secours!
Coalition Eau Secours! for responsible water management is a nonprofit national organisation regarded as one of the most important pressure groups in water preservation in Quebec. It stands up for social justice and present and future interest of every Quebecker in water, source of life.