US Supreme Court takes up dispute over power plant in India

File photo showing the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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US Supreme Court takes up dispute over power plant in India

  • The justices will hear an appeal by the villagers of a lower court ruling that the International Finance Corp.
  • The plant’s construction and operations did not comply with the environmental plan set out for the project.

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider reviving a lawsuit by Indian villagers seeking to hold a Washington-based international financial institution responsible for widespread environmental damage they blame on a power plant it financed.
The justices will hear an appeal by the villagers of a lower court ruling that the International Finance Corp. was immune from such lawsuits under federal law. IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is an international institution with 184 member countries that helps secure financing for projects in developing nations.
The case revolves around the IFC’s decision in 2008 to provide $450 million in loans to help construct the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant in Gujarat, India. IFC loans include provisions requiring that certain environmental standards are met.
The legal question before the justices is whether there are limits to immunity for entities like the IFC under the 1945 International Organizations Immunity Act, as there are for foreign countries under a 1976 law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
Lead plaintiff Budha Ismail Jam and other fisherman and farmers who live near the plant sued in federal court in Washington in 2015, saying the IFC had failed to meet its obligations.
They said the plant’s construction and operations did not comply with the environmental plan set out for the project. The local environment has been devastated, according to the plaintiffs, with marine life killed by water discharges from the plant’s cooling system and coal dust contaminating the air.
A district court in 2016 and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2017 ruled that the lawsuit was barred because the IFC is immune from such litigation under the 1945 law.
The court will hear arguments and decide the case in its next term, which begins in October.


Strong quake hits western Japan, no tsunami risk

Updated 34 sec ago
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Strong quake hits western Japan, no tsunami risk

TOKYO: A strong quake hit western Japan early Monday, but there were no immediate reports of major damage or risk of tsunami waves, officials said.
The 5.3-magnitude quake struck at a depth of 15.4 kilometers (10 miles) at 7:58 am (2258 GMT Sunday) near Osaka, according to the United States Geological Survey.
There was no risk of tsunami from the tremor, the Japanese meteorological agency said, putting its magnitude at 5.9, and the epicenter at a depth of 10 kilometers.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the government was “working united, with its first priority on saving people’s lives.”
Abe said he had instructed his staff to “swiftly collect information on damage, make utmost efforts in rescuing and saving lives... (and) provide timely and appropriate information to the public.”
Local police also told AFP that they had not received reports of substantial damage, and the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it had detected no abnormalities at its facilities after the quake.
The tremor caused a blackout for thousands of houses and suspended train operations during the morning commuting hours.
Private broadcaster TV Asahi showed firefighters responding to a blaze that broke out after the quake at a house north of Osaka city.
Television footage also showed a “shinkansen” bullet train stopped on the railway.
The quake registered a lower six on the Japanese Shindo scale of up to seven, meaning it is hard to stay standing.
Pictures posted on Twitter showed signs at a train station that had fallen down and books thrown off shelves at a store.