Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Fracking wells in McKenzie County, North Dakota. (Photo: Tim Evanson/flickr/cc)

Fracking wells in McKenzie County, North Dakota. (Photo: Tim Evanson/flickr/cc)

Warning: TTIP Aims To Defang Local Rules Against Hazardous Chemicals

New report finds that the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership poses a threat to state regulations against hazardous pesticides, products, and fracking chemicals

Sarah Lazare

The mammoth Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) under secret negotiation between the United States and European Union is poised to slash the power of local governments to regulate toxins—from pesticides to fracking chemicals—the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) warned in a report released Tuesday.

Preempting the Public Interest: How TTIP Will Limit US States’ Public Health and Environmental Protections (pdf) is based on an analysis of the European Commission's proposed chapter on regulatory cooperation from the April 20 round of negotiations. The report follows other analyses of the text which conclude that the TTIP poses a threat to human rights, environmental protections, and democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Beyond the regulatory cooperation chapter, little else is known about the content of the closed-door negotiations over what is set to be the largest bilateral "trade" deal in history.

The chapter's contents, warns CIEL, highlight the direct threat the TTIP poses to public health and environmental protections on the U.S. state level. This is especially troublesome, the report argues, because federal regulations under the Toxic Substance Control Act have proven "egregiously ineffective"—and could be even further eroded, thanks to the influence of the chemical industry in Congress.

"The bottom line is if you're trying to make the U.S. compatible with an international standard, and you have minimal federal regulations on the U.S. side, and you have states that go beyond that, the provisions will be used to attack state chemical and pesticide regulations."
—Sharon Treat, report co-author

In contrast, some state governments have taken the lead in responding to the dangers posed by fracking chemicals, pesticides, and hazardous products by adopting "more than 250 laws and regulations protecting humans and the environment from exposure to toxic chemicals," the report says.

However, so-called "harmonization provisions" in the EU's proposal could force states to conform to the lowest common denominator—in this case weaker federal guidelines. As Sharon Treat, attorney, co-author of the report and former Maine state legislator, explained to Common Dreams, "The bottom line is if you're trying to make the U.S. compatible with an international standard, and you have minimal federal regulations on the U.S. side, and you have states that go beyond that, the provisions will be used to attack state chemical and pesticide regulations."

What's more, the report asserts, the proposed chapter calls for an imposition of "multiple procedural mandates—from an early warning system to regulatory exchanges to the trade and cost-benefit impact assessments—that will lead to a regulatory chill caused by delay, increased costs for government, fear of legal challenges, and heightened industry influence and conflicts of interest."

Beyond their demobilizing effect, such requirements could also expand the power of private interests in corporate tribunals, known as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems.

"If you are requiring state and federal governments to do more studies to review whether a regulation could be done in a way that is less of an imposition on trade or big business, then you could bolster the case of the ISDS systems to block regulations," explained Treat. "That would be tipping the scales even further in favor of international corporations running roughshod over regulations and procedures to protect public health and the environment.

Given the continued secrecy of the talks, it is not known how the U.S. responded to the proposed chapter, but the researchers at CIEL say the EU's language alone is cause for alarm. CIEL warns that the "largest chemical and manufacturing corporations on both sides of the Atlantic" are playing a role in pressing the TTIP's regulatory agenda—and that the U.S. is likely pressing for a similar race to the bottom for EU member states.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is negotiating the TTIP alongside two other secret trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement. All three have come under stiff opposition from social movements and civil societies across the globe concerned that they will bolster corporate power at the expense of people and the planet. Some observers argue that these deals could collapse, in part due to their unpopularity and internal contradictions.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'It's Not Coming Out': Bernie Sanders Stands Firm on Medicare Expansion

"It's what the American people want and, after waiting over 50 years, what they are going to get."

Julia Conley ·


'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·


Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·


New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo