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January 21, 2015

Dear Member of Congress:

As leading U.S. environmental and science organizations, we write to express our strong opposition to “fast track” trade promotion authority and to urge you to oppose any legislation that would limit the ability of Congress to ensure that trade pacts deliver benefits for communities, workers, public health, and the environment.

Fast track empowers the president to send already-signed trade agreements to Congress for straight up or down votes with limited debate and no amendments. Fast track was originally designed in the 1970s when trade agreements focused on traditional trade issues such as cutting tariffs and lifting quotas. Today’s trade agreements, however, are about much more than tariffs and quotas and have significant implications for our environment, public health, and global climate.

Under negotiation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), for example, are rules that would grant foreign corporations the right to sue governments, in private tribunals, over environmental, public health, and other laws and policies that corporations allege reduce the value of their investment; rules that would require the United States Department of Energy to automatically approve exports of liquefied natural gas to countries in the pacts with no analysis to determine whether exporting natural gas is in the public interest; and a system for “harmonizing” regulations that could significantly weaken public health and environmental protections by offering new opportunities for foreign governments and corporations to intervene early on in our rule-making process.

This new, expansive, model of trade requires a more inclusive and open process to set the terms of how such pacts are negotiated, approved, and implemented. The old fast track is simply not appropriate given the scope and subject matter covered by today’s pacts. Moreover, we believe it is particularly inappropriate to give fast track authority to agreements that are both far along in the negotiation process and that have been negotiated with an astonishing lack of transparency.

U.S. involvement in trade negotiations should be guided by democracy, transparency, political accountability and must lead to a ‘race to the top’ that provides real protections for communities, workers, and the environment. A new model of trade that delivers benefits for most Americans, promotes broadly shared prosperity, and safeguards the environment and public health is possible. To achieve such goals, however, fast track must be replaced with a new system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements that includes a Congressional role in selecting appropriate trading partners; the publishing of government submissions and composite texts during the negotiations; Congressional certification that trade goals have been met before trade negotiations can conclude; and Congressional authorization for the executive branch to sign and enter into trade agreements.

We once again urge you to oppose fast track legislation and replace the outdated fast track procedures with a new trade negotiating and approval process that would help deliver trade agreements that could benefit workers, communities, public health, and the environment.

Athens County (OH) Fracking Action Network
Berks Gas Truth
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for International Environmental Law
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Clean Economy Coalition of the Coastal Bend
Clean Water Action
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Defenders of Wildlife
Energy Action Coalition
Environmental Action
Environmental Health Coalition
Environmental Investigation Agency
Food & Water Watch
Friends of the Earth
Friends of Merrymeeting Bay
Greenpeace USA
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Program
League of Conservation Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Oil Change International
Olympic Climate Action
Partnership for Policy Integrity
People Demanding Action
PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources)
Progressive Democrats of America
Progressive Democrats of America Maryland
Rainforest Action Network
Safe Climate Campaign
Sierra Club
Southern Oregon Climate Action Now
The SEED Coalition
The Texas Drought Project
Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for
Science and Democracy
U.S. Climate Plan
Washington Environmental Council
Wild Earth Guardians