Ascent Resources Case Highlights Growing Trade Deal Fracking Threat
A British company, Ascent Resources, is initiating arbitration proceedings against the european country of Slovenia over being required to conduct an environmental impact assessment before fracking near a water source. Ascent is the Operator of the Petišovci Project in the north-eastern Prekmurje region of Slovenia on the borders with Hungary and Croatia, where it is targeting unconventional tight gas. Ascent is using investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms in the UK-Slovenia bilateral investment treaty and the Energy Charter Treaty. The threatened communities in Solvenia have fought for over a decade against these fracking plans.
Recent concerns over the possibility of a similar investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism in the UK-Australia “trade” deal, now appear to be just the tip of a much larger iceberg. While it now seems less likely that an ISDS mechanism will be included in UK-Australia deal though the final text is still secret, it is entirely possible that it has been left out because of plans for the UK to join another deal, the CPTPP. Unlike the recently negotiated UK-Australia bilateral deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a long standing arrangement, like the European Union, between 11 countries around the pacific rim which has been in force for several years. To join the CPTPP the UK will need to sign up to all its provisions, including an ISDS mechanism.
The post-Brexit scramble to sign up to any trade deal going poses a significant threat to undo gains made by community resistance to fracking over the last deacde (though obviously the threat goes far beyond fracking). But as the Slovenia case makes clear, it is possible that a “trade” deal that the UK is already a party to could provide the loophole a fracking company needs.
For more details on the situation in Slovenia see the film below. There is also an international campaign against the Energy Charter Treaty, see: https://energy-charter-dirty-secrets.org/