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Hemscott: Shell’s Dutch chemicals unit taken to court over environmental allegations

AMSTERDAM (Thomson Financial) – Royal Dutch Shell’s SNC Moerdijk chemicals unit in the Netherlands is being prosecuted for alleged violations of environmental regulations, SNC Moerdijk confirmed on a Shell website.

The first violation is related to a March, 2004 incident involving an ethylene oxide gas leak.

The prosecution is alleging that Shell was too slow to inform authorities that over 100 kilograms of ethylene oxide had escaped into the air.

Shell said on its website that it had first assumed the leak was less than 100 kilograms and that it is only required, under agreement with regional authorities, to directly report leaks in excess of 100 kilograms.

The company said the incident would have been reported in a regular quarterly meeting with provincial authorities, but that once further investigations concluded that more of the chemical had been leaked than originally thought, it reported its findings immediately.

Four workers experienced headaches and coughing during the incident, but were given medical treatment and returned to work the next day, Shell said.

Prosecutors argued during a preliminary hearing on Monday that the region had narrowly escaped disaster when the combustible gas was leaked, according to media reports.

The second violation, which Shell said is a completely separate case, has to do with 2 alleged violations of dumping limits for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons under water pollution legislation.

The company was in court for a preliminary hearing on Monday and the case will be heard in February of 2008.

A prosecution spokeswoman said that Shell’s claims will be investigated and that it is too early to say what kind of penalty the company could face if the courts rule against it.

Dave van Ginhoven, [email protected] dvg/jfr
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