Skip to comments.California sacred lands law triggers $50 million NAFTA claim
Posted on 02/22/2005 6:43:13 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO (AP) - When California adopted a law to protect sacred Indian lands and the nation's toughest restrictions on open-pit metal mining in 2003, the twin actions spelled the end for a gold mine in the Southern California desert.
Now the mine owner is seeking $50 million in compensation under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
It's one of 42 such claims by corporations and investors so far, according to Ralph Nader's watchdog group Public Citizen.
Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the environmental law firm EarthJustice and two California state lawmakers said Tuesday the NAFTA provision lets foreign corporations undermine state and federal laws and regulations. They criticized the Bush administration for seeking to expand the free trade treaty and accompanying arbitration agreement to Central America.
Yet, "The United States has never lost a single investor case filed against it ... nor has the U.S. government ever paid a single cent to settle such a case," responded Richard Mills, spokesman for the Office of the United States Trade Representative. "Groups such as this are trying to scare people and they don't tell the full story."
Public Citizen contends an adverse judgment against the United States is just a matter of time.
State Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on International Trade Policy and State Legislation, called the report "a grim wake-up call."
She introduced a bill that would require that California pass a law agreeing to any future international trade agreements that she said currently "threaten democracy and public well-being."
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, decried the threat of a NAFTA compensation claim that he said "undermines our sovereignty" and prompted the veto of his bill requiring that more old tires be used in roadways in the form of rubberized asphalt.
Currently there are $28 billion in claims pending against the United States, Canada and Mexico under NAFTA, by Public Citizen's tabulation, including $300 million by Canadian cattle producers for losses stemming from the United States' beef import ban after mad cow disease was discovered there in 2003. In 11 cases where judgments are final, $35 million has been paid to five corporations.
The international arbitration provision cuts both ways.
United Parcel Service is seeking $160 million from Canada for alleged unfair competition from the government's delivery service there, and U.S. firms are challenging Canadian bans on a pesticide and gasoline additive.
Similar arbitration provisions are in some 2,000 treaties around the world, said John Murphy, vice president for Western Hemisphere Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The United States is party to about 40 such provisions, which mirror protections in the U.S. Constitution that property cannot be seized without compensation.
"These have proven quite helpful to American corporations," Murphy said, particularly in countries with slow or cumbersome legal systems.
He said Public Citizen's tally of $35 million in successful claims "seems fairly accurate. ... The striking thing about that number is how small it is relative to the flow of foreign investment."
Glamis Gold Ltd. of Reno says it already had invested $15 million in its proposal to mine federal land near the Quechan tribe's Fort Yuma Reservation near Winterhaven, in Imperial County, on part of the tribe's sacred "Trail of Dreams."
The proposed mine was rejected by the Clinton administration because it encroaches on Quechan sacred land, but the Bush administration rescinded that ruling.
California then enacted a law requiring that a metallic pit mine within one mile of an Indian sacred site be restored to its original landscape contour. Two days later, the California State Mining and Geology Board required mining companies to refill new open-pit metal mines and flatten mine waste piles back to nearly the natural landscape.
Glamis Gold, a U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian firm, filed for compensation under NAFTA instead of in U.S. courts.
"You use whatever means is at your disposal, where ever you think you have the greatest chance of success," said Michael Steeves, Glamis' vice president for investor relations.
On the Net:
Public Citizen: http://www.citizen.org
Office of the United States Trade Representative: http://www.ustr.gov/
Read SB348 at www.sen.ca.gov
Wasn't NAFTA supposed to harmonize transnational trade?
lol.. Who signed that pig in a poke anyway?
Yikes! We've got a long way to go to even reclaim the concept of private property rights.
As I recall, there wassn't one person who read the thing. Bob Dole bragged that he'd never read the thing before he signed it. The total documentation was reportedly over 30,000 pages long. You'd think that would have covered things like mad cow etc. Oh well.
Coming from Dole and the Senate, not a surprise.
considering hardly any elected officials even bothered to look at the evidence accumulated about Clinton and made available for all to review as part of the Impeachment process.
i'd like to file a lawsuit against the left and their media during the vietnam war.
Maybe, but I remember Limbaugh going on and on about how great it was going to be too. Come to think of it, the only one who campaigned against it was Perot....that's scary.
Yep, old Ross Perot is a smart businessman who was looking to the future. The rest were busy pandering.
That's beautiful! If you want to smash California's anti-business laws, you incorporate some little shell firm in Canada, and *then* use that shell firm to control your California operation.
Then, any eco-law that gets in your way can lead you straight to a NAFTA pot-o-gold via successful arbitration!
He said the same thing about the Republican Platform, when some one challenged him on whether he supported some of the conservative planks. Guess he didn't have time to read much, what with all his legislatin. <(¿)>
Perhpas if he'd had that Viagra a few years earlier...
mm n d(o.o)b n mm
Well, thar ya go!!!
I dunno. If I had spent $15 million on my property, only to have the state of California tell me that I can't use it because it's within a mile of "sacred ground", whatever that is, I'd use every tool in the book to get my money back.
Bankrupt California NOW!!
Speaking of Bob Dole; Has anyone heard when he's going to start his campaign for president? I've been waiting.....since '96.
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