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Groups file OECD complaint against Royal Dutch Shell

Jan. 24, 2011, 8:36 p.m. EST

By James Herron

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International said Tuesday they have filed a complaint against Royal Dutch Shell PLC with the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, alleging the oil giant has published misleading data about oil spills in Nigeria.

The two groups allege Shell has used “discredited and misleading information to blame the majority of oil pollution on saboteurs in its Niger Delta operations,” and that use of this flawed data breaches the OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies.

Shell has previously estimated sabotage or attempts at oil theft were responsible for 98% of recent oil spills facilities it operates in the Niger Delta.

Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues, said in a statement the figure was “totally lacking credibility” because the system for investigating spills isn’t independent of Shell.

“We monitor spills regularly and our observations often contradict information produced by Shell,” said Nnimmo Bassey, director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, in a statement.

Shell has reported big increases in the volume of oil spilled in the Niger Delta in recent years, but said they were mostly due to deliberate damage inflicted on its facilities.

In 2009, 13,900 metric tons of oil were spilled into the Niger Delta as a result of sabotage or theft, more than double the 2008 total and four times the 2007 figure, Shell said in its annual sustainability report last year.

Shell’s report said operational spills in 2009 totaled 1,300 tons, the lowest ever for the company. However, it also acknowledged figures for the previous year were inaccurate and was forced to quadruple its estimate of the amount spilled because of accidents in 2008 to 8,800 tons.

OECD complaints have been used regularly by environmental and human rights advocacy groups to raise grievances against large multinationals, notably mining companies. The guidelines for multinational enterprises are voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct, according to the OECD website.

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