Even as they continue to post record profits, oil and gas companies have come under increasing fire for their shady business practices.
Well okay: “Business practices” is probably not the right term for the human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and callous disregard for anything but profit that Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Chevron have demonstrated in some parts of the world.
But the people being exploited by these companies are fighting back. Several trials going on around the world right now seek to make these rapacious companies pay for the environmental destruction and human suffering they have caused.
I previously wrote about the Chevron trial in Ecuador. Chevron may soon be found liable for some $27 billion to clean up 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater dumped into the rainforest, and to compensate the indigenous Ecuadorian tribes who rely on the rainforest ecosystem for their survival.
Exxon Mobil is facing a suit brought by villagers in Indonesia, who allege the company contracted with government security forces to commit “murder, torture and rape in Aceh province, where the company operates a government-owned oil and natural gas field and a pipeline.”
And Shell is also facing a high profile suit, this one filed in a US court on behalf of the Ogoni people of Nigeria, who allege that:
On November 10, 1995, nine Ogoni leaders (the “Ogoni Nine”) were executed by the Nigerian government after being falsely accused of murder and tried by a specially-created military tribunal. Those executed were internationally acclaimed environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, prominent youth leader John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Saturday Doobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate and Baribor Bera. The detention, trial, and executions of the Ogoni Nine were the result of collusion between Shell and the military government to suppress opposition to Shell’s oil operations in Nigeria. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), EarthRights International (ERI) and other human rights attorneys sued Shell for human rights violations against the Ogoni.
The trial was scheduled to begin May 27th, but has been rescheduled to June 1st. You can follow updates and learn how you can help out at WiwavShell.org. There’s a wealth of information there to get you fired up. This video is pretty informative as well:
As despicable as these alleged crimes are, they’re only half of Shell’s malfeasance in Nigeria. An estimated 1.5 millon tons of oil has been spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem, making it “one of the world’s most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems” according to a team of independent scientists from Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. working for the Niger Dleta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project. A separate lawsuit has been filed against Shell in the Netherlands for its role in these spills and its refusal to clean up its mess.
It’s no accident that the plaintiffs in all of these cases are indigenous, tribal people. No doubt companies like Shell thought they could get away with what they were doing because these are mostly poor villagers they’ve been pushing around.
For the better part of a century, thanks to our dependence on fossil fuels, we have handed an inordinate amount of power, money, and influence to oil companies. Making them pay for their abuses of people and the planet is a necessary step to building a truly sustainable global economy.