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Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin

#TruthinTrade Day 2: Free Trade Agreement Puts Environmental Protection Laws at Risk

Mar 18, 2014
Press Release

 WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) today spoke out against the dangers poorly crafted free trade agreements pose to environmental health and safety. This is the second release of this week’s #TruthInTrade campaign to highlight the serious health, safety, and economic risks associated with fast-tracked trade deals. Today’s trade deals allow companies to seek damages through kangaroo courts and  puts countries at a disadvantage when trying to clean-up toxic spills or prevent further pollution by foreign companies. More information about #TruthinTrade is available here.

“This is another instance of an international corporation using a trade agreement to bully a government,” Representative Pocan said. “Every American deserves to know exactly what effects proposed trade agreements will have on the environment, the economy, and their own health, safety, and jobs.  Congress must have the time to conduct thorough and careful oversight of trade agreements that could have serious consequences for our constituents.”

Few countries understand the harmful consequences of hastily-ratified trade deals better than Peru. La Oroya, Peru – one of the world’s most polluted sites – has been compared to Chernobyl due to toxic contamination from nearby metal refineries.  Most of La Oroya’s children suffer from elevated lead levels, according to the Peruvian government. Parents say some have symptoms consistent with lead poisoning that include anemia, convulsions, stunted growth, and developmental delays. 

The Renco Group, a New York-based mining giant, claimed the Peruvian government violated the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement by not granting the company a third delay to install smokestack scrubbers in the metal refinery, the source of the pollution.  Renco is now demanding $800 million from Peru, arguing that the government’s environmental regulations violate its rights under the free trade agreement. Shortly after Renco filed its trade case, the Peruvian government reversed course and allowed the smelter to reopen. The refinery still operates without the proper filtration equipment needed to keep it from spewing lead and other toxic materials on the town.