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"This case is another sad example of a long list of frivolous investment lawsuits authorized by trade agreements," says Center for Biological Diversity's Bill Snape. (Photo: The Sierra Club/flickr)

Groups to TransCanada: Take This $15 Billion Voided Check and Shove It

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada is expected to officially file its $15 billion KXL claim under NAFTA provisions on Friday

Deirdre Fulton

Environmental advocates on Thursday delivered a giant voided check for $15 billion to TransCanada's office in Washington, D.C., in a symbolic rejection of the "frivolous investment lawsuits authorized by trade agreements" like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and NAFTA.

TransCanada announced earlier this year its plans to sue the United States under NAFTA provisions for $15 billion in damages over the Obama administration's rejection of the company's Keystone XL pipeline project.

In doing so, environmental groups warned at the time, the Canadian oil company plainly illustrated "the threat of pending trade deals that, if passed, would empower thousands of additional multinational corporations to bypass domestic courts and demand government compensation for environmental and climate protections in unaccountable tribunals."

Among the worst of those pending deals is the TPP, which the Obama administration has said is at the heart of its 2016 agenda. Many critics have called out the TPP's Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, which Elizabeth Warren has said give "big companies...the right to challenge laws they don't like—not in court, but in front of industry-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside any court system. Workers, environmentalists, human rights advocates, they don't get that special right—only corporations do."

On Thursday in the nation's capital—one day before TransCanada can officially submit its claim—organizations reiterated that argument.

"This cynical ploy is the clearest example yet of why Congress must reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership," said Ben Schreiber, Climate and Energy program director with Friends of the Earth U.S., one of the organizers of Thursday's action.

"TransCanada represents all the reckless Big Oil corporations who think they can use a secret court system to extort millions of dollars from Americans because they did not get their way on Keystone XL," added Jane Kleeb of Bold Alliance, which led the fight against Keystone XL in Nebraska. "America stands up to bullies and we are headed in a different direction for our energy, one that respects property rights and protects our water."

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