UK: Shell Oil Accused of Harming Communities

Publisher Name: 
Inter Press Service

The oil giant Shell is failing to protect communities near its
installations in several countries, says a new report from
Friends of the Earth.

The report 'Failing the Challenge: The Other Shell Report'
was unveiled in London Wednesday at a hall across from the
Queen Elizabeth II centre where the company held its
annual general meeting.

Activists from several countries said the fallout from
Shell oil refineries and depots is causing a high
incidence of cancer, asthma and skin conditions, they
said.

Shell sent its representatives to the Friends of the Earth
meeting, but declined to comment on the accusations.
Friends of the Earth sent their own representatives to the
meeting on the strength of shares the group has bought in
Shell.

Shell managers had held a meeting with members of Friends
of the Earth Tuesday, a day before the report was due to
be released. "We are withholding the contents of that
meeting," Judith Robinson from the Environmental Health
Fund in the U.S. told media representatives at the launch
of the report Wednesday.

Shell managers declined to comment on the report despite
several requests from IPS.

Friends of the Earth made an agreement not to go public
over its meeting with Shell managers, contrary to the
stand taken by some of the activists it had assembled.

"We have refused to talk to Shell because they set a
condition that we should not talk to the press," Desmond
D'Sa, chairman of the South Durban Community Environmental
Alliance, told media representatives at the launch of the
report.

"They want to meet us, but they want to gag us," he said.
"We want unconditional access to information. Shell is in
effect doing what the apartheid regime did in South Africa
earlier."

Desmond D'Sa said Shell is using "dirty technology" at the
refinery it runs in south Durban along with British
Petroleum. "That is not the technology they use in
Denmark," he said. "Why the double standards?" Local
people have high levels of asthma because of the high
levels of chemicals emission, D'Sa said.

"We have a high concentration of cases of asthma and
cancer in our area," said Hilton Kelly who lives near
Shell's Port Arthur refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. "One
in five families has someone who has asthma or cancer."

Kelly said many people have developed rashes from
chemicals deposited on the skin. "There is a direct
correlation between chemicals and illnesses," he said. "We
want those emissions reduced."

The activists spoke of several kinds of danger to health
from Shell installations. Leaks and fires at the Shell oil
depot in Pandacan, a suburb of Manila in the Philippines.
"have resulted in hundreds of residents being hospitalized
over the years," said Hope Esquillo Tura from the United
Front to Oust Oil Depots in the Philippines.

"Scaling down will not address issues around public safety
and security," she said. "Arrangements are made between
Shell and the local authorities, but this process needs to
be more inclusive."

"They are like a colonial force running the communities,"
said Oronto Douglas from Friends of the Earth in Nigeria.
"But we want access to our resources."

Douglas said that the Tuesday meeting had been held with
relatively junior Shell managers. "There seemed to be a
willingness to do something, but we have been listening to
their rhetoric for years," he said. "They should get back
to us within a specific time frame."

The Friends of the Earth report says that Shell had
committed itself to sustainable development eight years
ago, and promoted its so-called "green" image to the
world. But "the reality is a far cry from the green
promises in glossy brochures and advertising campaigns,"
the report says. "Shell is failing the sustainability
challenge."

This kind of "greenwash" is misleading the public and
investors, and must be stopped, the activists demanded.

AMP Section Name:CorpWatch