Indian coal plant’s World Bank lender immune from enviro suit

Farmers, fishermen and others who say the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant in Gujarat, India has ruined the environment and their livelihoods cannot sue the U.S.-based international organization that financed its construction in 2008, a federal appeals court held Tuesday in a case that the U.S. Supreme Court revived in 2019.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed last year’s ruling for International Finance Corp on remand. The appeals court found that IFC, represented by White & Case and Sidley Austin, has immunity from suit because the plaintiffs’ claims “are not based upon activity carried on in the United States.”

“Even crediting the allegation that the Plant would not have been built without IFC’s funding, the operation of the Plant is what actually injured appellants, and the manner of its construction and operation is the crux of their complaint,” Circuit Judge Judith Rogers wrote. “The gravamen of appellants’ lawsuit is therefore conduct that occurred in India, not in the United States.”

Richard Herz of EarthRights International, who argued the appeal for fisherman Budha Ismail Jam and his neighbors, said in an email that they intend to seek further review “and to go back to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”

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