Monday, January 11, 2010

Dutch Court to Decide on Shell Lawsuits

Dutch Court to Decide on Shell Lawsuits
Jan 9th, 2010 by John Donovan.
JANUARY 9, 2010

LONDON — A Dutch civil court in The Hague is expected to decide Wednesday whether to hear two lawsuits accusing Royal Dutch Shell PLC of failing to properly maintain pipelines.

According to the suits, Shell’s lax maintenance led to spills in late 2005 that eventually ruined some Nigerian fishing areas and farmland.

Last month, the same Dutch court ruled that a similar case against Shell will go to trial starting Feb. 10. The three cases against Shell seek unspecified financial damages and were filed by the U.K. advocacy group, Friends of the Earth, on behalf of Nigerian farmers.

Friends of the Earth thinks the lawsuits have a better chance of succeeding in the Netherlands because of delays in Nigeria’s legal system, said Geert Ritsema, a spokesman for the group.

The suits mark the first time that oil spills in Nigeria have brought Shell before a European court, according to the Anglo-Dutch company. Shell says the cases are without merit because the oil spills happened after Nigerian militants blew up its pipelines.

“Shell has maintained the spills in all three cases were caused by sabotage,” said Shell spokesman Rainer Winzenried. “Our cleanups of the areas in dispute were approved and certified by the relevant Nigerian authorities.”

Mr. Ritsema said he thinks there is enough evidence to show that the Shell oil pipeline spills weren’t the result of sabotage and that Shell took too long to clean up the oil. More>>>