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Oil Giant Accused of Environmental ‘Abuse’

The Scotsman: Oil Giant Accused of Environmental ‘Abuse’

By Amanda Brown, Environment Correspondent, PA News

23 June 04

An international oil company was accused today of damaging wildlife habitats and polluting air quality and local communities by its activities.

Friends of the Earth attacked the Shell at a news conference in the House of Commons, alleging that the firm is causing misery for people through oil spills and gas flares which poison the land and air and contribute to global warming.

But the oil giant immediately hit back, saying that, in countries like Nigeria, corruption and bribery are a problem and many oil spills are caused by local people siphoning oil out of pipelines.

Plans to end gas flaring are scheduled for 2008, but a safe, environmentally friendly alternative to flaring must also be found, said the company.

However, Friends of the Earth said that, in the Niger Delta, gas flaring is an everyday feature for the communities and oil spills are frequently left rather than cleaned up, contaminating farmland, water courses and fish supplies.

Oronto Douglas, of FoE Nigeria, told the news conference: “Shell’s business practices in the Niger Delta have destroyed our environment, our farmland and our fisheries.

“Oil spills are not cleaned up and gas flares dominate the skyline.

“The people in Nigeria are not benefiting from Shell’s presence in our country – we are paying the price.

“Shell must work with local communities to clean up the Niger Delta and make sure communities receive the benefits of their operations there.”

Friends of the Earth executive director Tony Juniper said: “Shell is currently under investigation for overstating its oil reserves, but this report shows the company has for many years also been overstating its social and environmental performance.

“Unlike shareholders, the communities living next door to Shell have little or no rights of redress.

“Many suffer ill-health, pollution and environmental damage as a result of Shell’s pursuit of profits.

“It is time the British Government legislated and gave communities the right to protection form such corporate abuse. And they must be compensated when abuse occurs.”

A Shell spokesman told PA News: “We believe in listening to all stakeholders, which includes NGOs as well as governments.

“We strongly believe this is being done at a local level. Over the past year there has been direct high-level Shell engagement with many of the organisations represented in the FoE report. We will continue with this engagement.

“We have been present at these sites for a long time, actively monitoring health and air quality control, so this is not new.

“Gas flaring is necessary and Shell has a goal to end continuous flaring by 2008 but you have to have an alternative that is environmentally friendly.

“There are problems in the Niger Delta where 141 of the 221 spills in 2003 were caused by wilful damage. Corruption and bribery are a problem.”

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