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Shell’s Seismic Tantrum

Posted by John Donovan: 3 June 2024

Shell’s Seismic Tantrum: Court Smacks Down Oil Giant’s Appeal But Leaves Door Open for Another Round of Environmental Nonsense

Environmental Activists Win Against Shell In Appeal Court

In a classic case of corporate shenanigans, Shell and their cronies at Impact Africa, along with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), just had their appeal smacked down by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). Their aim? To overturn a High Court ruling that halted their oh-so-important seismic survey off the Wild Coast. Why the halt? Apparently, “community participation” was more of a bad joke than a reality.

The SCA dismissed their appeal with costs and pointed out that the so-called community involvement was downright “illusory.” Translation: Shell’s idea of consulting the local communities was about as real as a unicorn. But hold onto your hats, because the court did leave a teeny-tiny crack open for Shell and Impact Africa to make a third attempt to renew their 2014 exploration rights. Of course, this time, they actually have to talk to the people whose lives they’re screwing over.

Despite this slap on the wrist, the court’s ruling still emphasizes that proper consultation with the affected communities—who say the seismic survey will mess with their livelihoods—is non-negotiable. The High Court had already given the environmental activists a big win in 2022, calling out the 2014 exploration right as unlawful. But Shell, ever persistent in their quest to drill and destroy, appealed, claiming their half-assed public participation and outdated Environmental Management Programme were good enough.

Judge Nathan Ponnan wasn’t having any of Shell’s nonsense. In a unanimous ruling, he underscored that the right to fair administrative action is entrenched in the Bill of Rights. He called out the laughable consultation process, noting that notices in English and Afrikaans were about as useful as a chocolate teapot since most of the community speaks isiXhosa or isiMpondo.

The kicker? The notices were buried in newspapers nobody reads. If Shell really wanted to “engage meaningfully,” they should have used local languages and accessible media, like radio. Judge Ponnan made it clear: the process was “more illusory than real,” and fundamentally inadequate.

But don’t break out the champagne just yet. The court suspended the High Court’s orders that had set aside Shell’s exploration rights, pending a further application. This means Shell’s permit is still technically valid while they scramble to patch up their shoddy consultation process.

Shell, of course, is putting on a brave face. Spokesperson Pam Ntaka said, “Shell respects the court’s decision to dismiss the appeal. However, we welcome the court’s direction that the exploration right remains valid, subject to further public consultation and the renewal application.” Translation: “We’re down, but not out. And we’re still coming for that oil.”

The Legal Resources Centre’s Wilmien Wicomb hit the nail on the head, saying the judgment reaffirmed the importance of respecting local community rights. But she also expressed disappointment that the court gave Shell yet another chance to renew their exploration right, questioning how a renewal ten years after the original (unlawful) permit was granted can possibly make things right.

Sinegugu Zukulu of Sustaining the Wild Coast added that the ruling disregards the rights of current and future generations to a life free from climate crises. And there you have it: Shell, ever the environmental villain, gets another shot at redemption while the rest of us watch in horror.

So, stay tuned for Shell’s next episode of “How to Pretend to Care About the Environment While Plotting More Drilling.” Because when it comes to greed and pollution, Shell never disappoints.

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