Shell will also have to answer for the pollution in Nigeria before the English courts. The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Niger Delta communities, ruling that the energy multinational can be sued for the ecological disaster in the area. Oil company pollution must not go unpunished: Her Majesty’s Supreme Court has ruled that affected Nigerian communities can sue the oil giant Shell in English courts.
The decision writes the BBC, overturns a ruling by the Court of Appeals and is a victory for the Delta communities after a five-year battle. The Delta population, over 40,000 people, claims that the decades of pollution linked to oil extraction have had a serious impact on life, health, and the local environment.
Royal Dutch Shell had argued that it did not have to answer the charges, while not disputing the causes of the pollution, but stressing that the central holding could not be legally responsible for its Nigerian subsidiary, a company that had to be tried under local law. Shell is responsible for approximately 50% of the delta’s oil production. The Supreme Court, the UK’s last option for civil cases, has instead ruled the opposite: the lawsuits brought by the community of Bille and the Ogale people of Ogoniland against Royal Dutch Shell can be heard in the English courts.
The communities, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, reiterated that Shell had a common law duty of assistance to those who had suffered severe damage due to the systemic health, safety, and environmental deficiencies of one of its foreign subsidiaries. Leigh Day’s partner Daniel Leader said the ruling is a “watershed” for “impoverished communities trying to stand up to powerful corporations.” Mark Dummett, director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Program, told the BBC that the dispute has not yet been won, but added: “This historic ruling could mean the end of a long chapter of impunity for Shell and other multinationals that they commit human rights violations abroad.” Shell described the proceeding as “disappointing”.
In areas where oil and gas development are prevalent, air, water, and soil resources can be contaminated with oil and gas wastes and by-products. Citizens commonly report that drilling and production activities pollute water wells, surface waters, and earth surrounding well sites. Scientists also showed that air emissions from oil companies’ sites, wellheads, compressor stations, pipelines, and oil and gas field infrastructure contribute to air quality concerns.
Oil and gas production losses, which may contain petroleum hydrocarbons, metals, naturally occurring radioactive elements, salts, and toxic chemicals, can cause soil pollution, and prevent the growth of plants. Produced water, which may contain high concentrations of salts and other contaminants, is often stored in pits or disposed of in evaporation ponds by oil companies. Spills of produced water can kill vegetation and sterilize soils.