Sierran Masthead

Chapter Urges Hill and Bayh to Vote No on Fast Track

The Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter is part of a coalition of environmental organizations, local officials, and family farmers urging Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Baron Hill to vote against Fast Track. The legislation would allow foreign corporations to challenge U.S. environmental laws and health standards while failing to require environmental standards abroad. It also would hurt family farmers by depressing prices for corn and soybeans. Fast Track was being debated in the U.S. Senate as we went to press, with a vote expected to have occurred by the time this issue is printed.

“The Fast Track vote is a critical environmental vote,” said Joshua Martin of the American Lands Alliance. “The Fast Track vote is also a vote regarding the future of working families and our family farms, and we urge Senator Bayh and Representative Hill to oppose this bill because it fails to protect these values in our community.”

Currently under NAFTA chapter 11, foreign corporations can challenge U.S. environmental laws before secret NAFTA tribunals where the judges are unelected trade lawyers and to which there is no appeal.

When California began to phase out MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), a suspected human carcinogen that has contaminated the drinking water supply of more than 50 communities, a Canadian MTBE manufacturer used NAFTA rules to sue the U.S. government for $900 million in unrealized profits before a secret NAFTA tribunal. Indiana’s recently passed weak ban on MTBE could also be challenged.

“Citizens must retain the right to protect their communities from harmful pollution, and no corporation should be allowed to challenge our health, environmental standards, and consumer protections for the sake of their profits,” said Dave Menzer of the Indiana Fair Trade Campaign. Gary Chambers, a retired farmer from Columbus points out that “while we are spending record amounts in farm subsidies, most of which goes to corporate agriculture, these expanded trade agreements continue to depress grain prices.” Chambers was forced to retire from farming like many Indiana family farmers because prices for corn and soybeans did not reflect production costs. While Indiana has experience record job loss as a result of NAFTA and the weak economy, an expansion of NAFTA to the entire western hemisphere will only worsen the flight of jobs. Many manufacturing jobs have moved to Mexico since NAFTA’s passage, and many more are likely to move further south if Fast Track passes.

“By voting for Fast Track, Congress willingly cedes its responsibility to thoroughly review and give input on important trade agreements. These agreements have been destructive to local communities, as witnessed by factory flight to Mexico, have threatened the global and local environment in countless examples, and are a fundamental barrier to empowering communities to control their own destiny. They represent the antithesis of democratic inclusion and transparency, economic accountability, and environmental sustainability,” said Dave Rollo, chair of the City of Bloomington Environmental Commission.

“Many corporations have relocated to other countries because they are not required to be environmentally responsible, and they are able to pay people slave wages in abysmal working conditions. This represents a race to the bottom for all workers both in the U.S. and abroad,” said Mandy Skinner, a member of No Sweat, a student group in Bloomington opposed to sweatshops. Among the other organizations urging Rep. Hill and Sen. Bayh to vote against Fast Track are the American Lands Alliance, the Indiana Forest Alliance, Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, Hoosier Environmental Council, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Center for Sustainable Living, and Monroe County Green Party.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[6/28/02]efp

Summer 2002