International trade treaties hamper states on environmental protection

When the U.S. signed on to international trade treaties like NAFTA, enviros warned that it could hamper efforts to pass and enforce eco-friendly laws and regulations, and there’s mounting evidence to support those dark predictions. After a period of caution and reticence, U.S. trading partners are more often using international enforcement mechanisms to scuttle state-level environmental (and labor, and social) laws. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in September vetoed a bill calling for use of the state’s massive piles of spare tires as material for asphalt, fearing that Canadian and Mexican rubber exporters would sue before the World Trade Organization. The fears are grounded in similar suits filed over laws phasing out MTBE (which was contaminating groundwater) and restricting open-pit mining. “It’s very disconcerting to think the federal government can make agreements that can compromise the state’s ability to regulate for the health and welfare of its citizens,” said California Deputy Attorney General Susan Durbin.

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