Recently, we wrote about the pressures on President Obama to approve the tar sands pipeline, most of which have to do with the relationship with Canada.
But now, we've learned about the most insidious reason yet, which could be why Canada's prime minister and TransCanada are so confident it will approved.
"The "sleeper" argument on Obama's desk is that TransCanada, having already invested big money in the U.S., can invoke Chapter 11 of the NAFTA trade agreement and sue the U.S. government for big damages if its permit is denied," notes Ralph Nader.
"Incredible as it may seem, the notorious Chapter 11 has been used by numerous companies to seek billions of dollars in damages from governmental official decisions in either Mexico, the U.S. or Canada. Companies have succeeded in obtaining settlements totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. (See Public Citizen.) Paid for by the taxpayers, of course.
That's surely why TransCanada is busily buying rights of way through the western US, and asking states to use their power of eminent domain when landowners resist. Giant pipes have been shipped to locations along the way - the more they invest, the better the case is under NAFTA.
Even though building the pipeline will create only a couple thousand, short-term jobs, TransCanada has greatly exaggerated that number and the AFL-CIO and the construction unions want it built. Of course, the American Petroleum Institute is lobbying hard and a majority of members of Congress have signed on.
Then there's ALEC, which is pushing legislation quietly through the states, but the biggest reason come down to money - they could sue the US for billions of dollars.