Vancouver As a BC court prepares to hear the appeal of a crucial NAFTA ruling, Greenpeace and CUPE present the human face of this case that threatens the environment, public services and democracy.
The case revolves around Metalclad a US waste disposal company that was refused permission to operate a toxic waste dump in Mexico. Metalclad filed suit under NAFTA, and were awarded US$16.7 in compensation.
This case highlights how an international trade agreement like NAFTA threatens democracy, said Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Were talking here about a Mexican municipality that denied a permit for a toxic waste dump. What is worst about this case is that the decision to deny a permit was made after local citizens mobilized to protest the landfill as a threat to their health. Then a faceless NAFTA panel awards damages because local officials listened to their citizens. If thats not an attack on democracy, I dont know what is, said Darcy.
Greenpeace was involved in the local opposition to the toxic dump, which had already raised concerns over health and environmental damage. Babies were born with health problems. People thought this was connected with earlier dumping at the site. An independent panel found evidence that leakage had contaminated the soil with mercury, benzene and a number of organochlorine solvents, and that groundwater was at risk, said Fernando Bejarano of Greenpeace Mexico.
In 1996, the municipality obtained an injunction to prevent Metalclad resuming operations. Not long afterwards, the governor of San Luis Potosi declared the area a conservation reserve. Bejarano added.
The NAFTA panel ruled that the local authority in Mexico had no jurisdiction to consider environmental issues in deciding whether to allow the toxic waste facility in their community.
They also found that Mexico has an obligation to provide Metalclad as a US company better treatment than domestic Mexican companies. Mexico has appealed that ruling, and that appeal will be heard at the BC Supreme Court, 800 Smithe Street, Vancouver, today, February 19th.
For further information, visit www.cupe.ca
Robert Fox, CUPE communications
(613) 795-4977 (cellular)
Jo Dufay, Greenpeace Canada
(416) 451- 9354 (cellular)