oil spills

Nigerians sue Shell in Netherlands over oil spills

Four Nigerian residents and an advocacy group told a Dutch court on Oct. 11 that Shell should be held liable for damage from oil pollution in the Niger Delta. The suit, which was filed by the four villagers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands in 2008, is the first time a Dutch company has been sued for the alleged misconduct of its foreign subsidiary. Shell has maintained throughout the trial that the case should be heard in Nigeria and that the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction. Friends of the Earth Netherlands says that the case could set an international precedent encouraging victims of pollution by Western corporations to sue in the Netherlands and other nations in the EU, noting that there are hundreds of thousands of pollution victims in Nigeria alone. Shell argues that the pollution damage was caused by thieves who sabotaged the oil lines and that its local subsidiary fulfilled its duty in cleaning up the spills. A verdict in this case is expected by early 2013.

PDVSA oil spill fouls Curaçao

Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA has confirmed an oil spill reported by Curaçao authorities on August 17 at the autonomous Dutch territory's Isle refinery, which is operated by the Venezuelan parastatal. PDVSA said Aug. 30 that is has been working with local authorities  to contain the spill. But local environmental organizations charge that PDVSA responded late to the emergency. Peter van Leeuwen, chair of Clean Environment on Curaçao (SMOC), asserted that neither PDVSA nor the territory's government had contingency plans in place for such a disaster, and stated that the island's Jan Kok nature preserve, a critical flamingo habitat, has been impacted. "This is probably the biggest disaster in Curaçao," he said. "The whole area of Jan Kok is black. The birds are black. The crabs are black. The plants are black. Everything is draped in oil." (El Universal, Caracas, Aug. 30; AP, Aug. 27)

Niger Delta insurgency back on?

Gunmen attacked two ships off the coast of Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta Aug. 4, killing two naval troops protecting the vessels and seizing four foreign workers before fleeing.  Six naval troops were aboard the vessel, which belongs to the Sea Truck oil services company. The Nigerian navy has dispatched boats and a helicopter to the area. Sporadic attacks on oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta have continued despite a 2009 amnesty for militant groups. (AP, Radio Netherlands, Aug. 4)

Brazil: court orders Chevron to suspend drilling

A federal court in Brazil on Aug. 1 ordered Chevron and drilling company Transocean to suspend all oil drilling in the country within 30 days in the wake of two oil spills off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. A judge for Brazil's Regional Federal Court of the Second Region ruled that each company must pay 500 million reals, or $244 million, for every day that they do not comply with the suspension. In November, a Chevron appraisal well leaked 155,000 gallons of oil. In March, oil started leaking again from the well and Chevron suspended production in that oil field. In its ruling, the court rationalized that two oil spills in the span of four months demonstrated that Chevron and Transocean cannot operate the wells safely. Chevron plans to appeal the ruling, saying that it complied with all applicable laws and industry standards. 

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