Monday, October 24, 2011
Royal Dutch Shell is facing legal action once again for its international activities. The company is accused of contaminating well water in Nigeria with benzene at levels that are 900 times greater than recommended by the World Health Organization. The UN Environment Program issued a report in August implicating Royal Dutch Shell and the state-owned Nigerian oil company in the contamination, which allegedly resulted from a failure to take adequate measures to prevent oil spills and to adequately clean them up. Several tribal leaders in the Delta region of Nigeria brought the lawsuit in US District Court in Michigan under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) which permits suits by aliens for torts in violation of international law. News reports indicate that Royal Dutch Shell is accused of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, willful negligence and violations of various treaty obligations. The lawsuit seeks $1 billion in damages as well as clean-up of the contamination. Royal Dutch Shell is also a defendant in another ATS lawsuit before the US Supreme Court (Kiobel) and settled another lawsuit arising from its operations in the Nigerian Delta region for $15 million in 2009.