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Shell May Face Prosecution For North Sea Spill – UK Minister

By Alexis Flynn

Published September 15, 2011 Dow Jones Newswires

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA.LN) may be prosecuted for the U.K.’s worst oil spill in a decade after Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne confirmed an investigation into a 10-day leak from the oil major’s Gannet Alpha platform last month will be sent to Scotland’s public prosecutor.

“My department and the Health and Safety Executive have commenced investigations into the cause of the incident,” said Huhne, adding it would likely “take some months.”

“A full report will be sent to the procurator fiscal to consider whether a prosecution is appropriate,” Huhne said.

Previously, the DECC had said the findings of the investigation would only be sent to the procurator fiscal “if appropriate.”

About 218 metric tons of oil–equivalent to 1,300 barrels–spilled into the North Sea from a leaking undersea pipeline at the North Sea platform between Aug. 10 and 19.

Huhne said the DECC was initially informed on Aug. 10 of a surface oil sheen and told a leak had occurred. However, he was then told by Shell that the leak had been stemmed the following day.

On Friday Aug. 12, aerial surveillance in the late afternoon showed the leak was continuing “with significant potential for pollution,” said Huhne. Shell only confirmed the leak to journalists later that day, leading to criticism from some environmental groups and Scottish politicians about its slow disclosure of the incident.

Shell wasn’t immediately available to comment when contacted by Dow Jones Newswires.

Copyright � 2011 Dow Jones Newswires

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