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Posts Tagged ‘Total’

Oil Giant Total Loses Appeal in Oil Spill Case

Posted by feww on March 30, 2010

Total’s Guilty Verdict in Massive Oil Pollution Upheld by French Court

Total, the French oil giant, lost an appeal today to overturn a court ruling that found the company guilty of negligence for the sinking of oil tanker Erika, which spilled 20,000-ton oil off the French Atlantic coast  in 1999.


Maltese-registered oil tanker Erika, photographed from a French Navy plane,  sinks (December 13, 1999). The rusty oil tanker broke in two in violent seas off the Brittany coast, western France, releasing about 22,000 tons of crude oil into the Atlantic. Photo: French Navy. Click image to enlarge.

Appeals court in Paris upheld an earlier conviction and a fine of 375,000 euros against the company.

Erika, a 25-year-old oil tanker, broke in two on December 12, 1999, polluting 400 km of France’s Atlantic coastline. The oil spill which killed or injured about a third of a million birds, took more than three months to clean up.

In 2008, following “a seven-year investigation and complex trial that lifted the lid on the murky world of offshore-registered shipping,” a criminal court in Paris ruled that Total was responsible for sinking of Erika, an aging, rusty oil tanker,  and ordered the company to pay several million euros in damages.


The impact of Total negligence was long-lasting. Photo: Marcel Mochet/AFP. Image may be subject to copyright.

“Total, which chartered the rusting tanker that split into two off the Brittany coast, belching out a black toxic wave, was found guilty of negligence and fined €375,000 ($500,000). It was also ordered to pay a share of nearly €200m in damages to civil parties, including the French state. The Italian certification company that declared the vessel seaworthy, and the ship’s owner and manager, were also held responsible.” A report said.

“The courts decision establishes a legal precedent by recognizing that polluters can be held responsible for damage they cause to the environment.” RFI said.

The French Judge Joseph Valantin reportedly said Total had “committed an error of negligence that is linked to the sinking” of the Erika and it was as a “direct consequence of the serious rust corrosion” caused by “insufficient maintenance of the ship.”

Background Summary:

Erika slowly sank in the Bay of Biscay about 65 km off the coast of western France , spilling a massive oil slick of 20,000 tons of toxic crude into the Atlantic. About two weeks later, the oil began covering the shore, killing up to 200,000 birds and injuring more than 100,000 others. “Locals described a coating of black goo ‘like thick chewing gum,’  sometimes 30cm (12in) thick on beaches. Seafood was banned, fishing was suspended and volunteers rushed to try to clean the birds that were suffocating in what environmentalists called a ‘black tide.’  Some cleaned beaches were blackened again overnight as fresh oil washed in.” A report said.

“Some 270,000 tonnes of waste, made up of fuel oil, seawater, sand and stones, had to be treated in the Erika cleanup operation. Tens of thousands of sea birds usually wintered on the affected stretch of Atlantic coast and vast damage was caused to shellfish farms and fishing.”

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Posted in big oil, coast of Brittany, Judge Joseph Valantin, oil spill | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fuel Protests Flare in Europe

Posted by feww on May 28, 2008

Truckers and fishermen across Europe protest rising oil prices

Truckers and fishermen across Europe held protests against rising world oil prices on Wednesday, demanding government action to prevent the price hikes. Protests were held across Britain, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain.


Trucks are driven along a section of the A40 highway during a demonstration, in London on May 27, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

In Britain a convoy of truckers converged on London on Tuesday, closing a busy main road and causing traffic backlogs. Similar protests took place in Wales, were Welsh hauliers threatened to blockade ports and refineries. Refinery blockades in 2000 caused shortages in many areas. The drivers demanded a rebate because they said fuel bills had risen by 50 percent in one year. Britain has the highest fuel taxes in the European Union.

In Bulgaria hundreds of truckers launched protests in the capital Sofia, the Black Sea port city of Varna and the Danube port city of Russe on Wednesday, demanding lower taxes on fuels and calling for price ceilings on fuels.

In France the fishermen continued their ongoing protest against high diesel prices on Wednesday with truckers and farmers adding their voice demanding action from the government. Fishermen demanded to buy diesel at discounted rate at half the market prices, which have increased by 30 percent in 2008. They staged similar protests last year asking government to cushion the effects of surging marine fuel prices that have eroded their profit margins. Farmers blocked access to an oil depot operated by Total near the city of Toulouse and demanded the government exempt them from a special petrol tax called TIPP.

French truckers group OTRE also threatened to take action across France if the government failed to respond to their demands by Thursday evening.

In Italy fishermen in the Adriatic will strike commencing Friday.

In Netherlands truckers are planning a national day of action for Thursday to protest against rising diesel prices.

In Spain the Fishermen’s Confederation is arranging a protest in Madrid for Friday and the main truckers’ association has called a strike for June 8 concerning high fuel prices. Farmers in Catalonia are expected to announce protests.
(Original report by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit, Reuters. Copyright Thomson Reuters). Partially edited by FEWW

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