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Argentina lawmakers pass controversial energy law

[JURIST] Argentina's lower house of Congress [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday passed a highly criticized bill for a new Hydrocarbons law. The lower house, controlled by allies of President Cristina Fernandez [BBC profile], passed the bill with a vote of 130-116 with one abstention after 14 hours of debate. The bill seeks to promote foreign business investments in exploration and production of the country's large Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas deposits. To promote investment, the bill will restrict the power of Argentina's oil-producing provinces, which, according to the Argentine Constitution, own the nation's oil and gas reserves. The new law also lowers the minimum amount that foreign companies must invest to avoid import and foreign-exchange controls from USD $1 billion to $250 million. Opposition lawmakers criticized the bill, which was previously passed by the Senate [IANS report], saying that it is detrimental to the interests of Argentina.

Argentina has faced a number of legal and economic woes regarding its foreign debt since its economic collapse in 2001. In August Argentina initiated legal proceedings against the US in the International Court of Justice over US interference in the restructuring of Argentina's foreign debt [JURIST report]. Argentina contends that the US violated its sovereignty and immunities as a result of judicial decisions adopted by US tribunals concerning the restructuring of the Argentine public debt. In June Argentina appealed to the US Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear its appeals, denying certiorari [JURIST report] in two cases: Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Exchange Bondholder Group v. NML Capital, Ltd. [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. That same day the court ruled in a related case, also named Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd. [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report], that a hedge fund can subpoena banks for information about Argentina's non-US assets. In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court held that no provision in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act [text, PDF] immunizes a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor from post-judgment discovery of information concerning its extraterritorial assets.

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