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The nation of Uruguay won a rare environmental case against Argentina at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, on April 20. The court delivered a two-part judgment in the case, Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay). Through two separate votes, the court ruled that Uruguay breached procedural, but not substantive, obligations. On the procedural side, the court voted, 13-1, that Uruguay breached obligations to cooperate with Argentina and the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay while developing plans to build two pulp mills, known as Orion and CMB. Substantively, the court ruled, 11-3, that Uruguay did not breach its obligations to protect the environment under the Statute of the River Uruguay by allowing the construction of a the Orion pulp mill. A Foley Hoag team led by Paul Reichler, a Washington-based partner, and consisting of six other lawyers at the Boston-based firm helped Uruguay fend of the lawsuit filed by neighboring Argentina. Reichler said the decision is important because it’s the “first definitive decision by the court in a case involving international environmental law.” He said the only other environmental case was decided in 1997. In ruling that Uruguay didn’t breach its environmental obligations by authorizing construction of the Orion mill, the court came down on the side of sustainable development, Reichler said. “They’re balancing the interests of economic development on the one hand and protection of the environment on the other.” The Orion mill, which cost an estimated $1.2 billion to build is “by far the largest foreign investment in Uruguay’s history,” he said. Grupo Empresarial ENCE S.A., a Spanish company that was planning to build the CMB mill, didn’t end up completing the project, Reichler said. Argentina’s lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment. They included the following professors: Laurence Boisson de Chazournes of the University of Geneva; Marcelo Kohen of the Graduate Institute Geneva; Alain Pellet of the University of Paris; and Philippe Sands of University College London. Although the international court gives litigants two or three weeks’ notice of when it plans to issue a ruling, Reichler’s group had to enjoy their victory from afar. Volcanic ash from the eruption in Iceland that began on April 14 disrupted their travel plans. “Fortunately, we were able to follow along on the Internet,” Reichler said. “It’s a little bit more exciting to be in the court when the judgment is being read, [but] we’re thrilled. “We’ve been popping the Champagne ever since.” Reichler said Foley’s International Court of Justice work has expanded to the point where the team has had multiple cases at the court during the past four or five years. “Our ICJ practice is growing rapidly,” he said.

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