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Shell Hath No Fury Like A People Scorned
Friday August 25, 2006 01:00 by Mark - Seomra Spraoi
The Trials and Tribulations Of Royal Dutch Shell : Aug 2006
If the population of Ireland needs any more reason to doubt the word, or integrity, of Royal Dutch Shell, you can pretty much look anywhere on the planet and find plenty to shake your faith in profit driven ‘progess’. This is just a brief round-up of some of the swirling mess that Shell brings where ever it goes. However you are unlikely to see these stories covered in the Irish mainstream media in such a way as to portray the various realities of those that resist such ‘progress’
Its worth noting though. This is just a snapshot of 4 weeks of controversial activities. It took little more than 5 hours sourcing on the internet. The truth, as they say, is out there. More realistically there are many truths out there.
Royal Dutch Shell is but one of many. A biggy it’s true. But there are many more, in every aspect of our lives. In our energy production, our food production our homes production, our clothes production, and increasingly our ‘public’ services. The costs are always incurred by the under represented, by communities considered as after thoughts, by peoples considered voiceless harmless and unimportant in elections, should that charade occur. Unfortunately there is nothing new in that.
What is new is our ability to find out for ourselves, to sift through and make our own minds up. Who do you believe, who do you trust. And to see the common threads, the machinations of unjust legal systems, of fluid links between political parties, public relations, and big business. Of cynical arrogance and double speak.
And then the common threads of dignity, of purpose, of solidarity, of democracy that only lives through real participation in shaping your life yourself, even if that is defined by resisting
Currently in the Philippines, Shell (named as Philipinas Shell Petroleum Corp) is fighting local communities and government officials, as the company refuses to move from Pandacan terminal, as required by local legislation. This was to take effect from 30th April 2003 with the expiration of a memorandum of agreement signed by the oil companies and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza that extended the depot’s stay in Pandacan on a scaled-down basis.
An oil spill occurred as recently as 20th July prompting the Laguna Lake Development authority to review in its entirety the environmental permit that the company operates under. Despite constant assurances of safety to the public, the local communities have not been swayed in their opposition to Shells ongoing activity.
“Hope Esquillo Tura, a member of the United Front to Oust the Oil Depots (UFO-OD), traveled to the 2003 Shell AGM in London where she presented community concerns for the continued presence of Shell’s oil depot was circumventing a city ordinance that requires its removal. She explained that Shell had used its significant influence to secure a special permit to operate, rather than respect and comply with the local ordinance. At the AGM, Sir Philip Watts announced that Shell would protect the local community by creating a “buffer zone” between the oil depots and nearby residents. However Hope exposed the misleading nature of this announcement, pointing out that the so-called “buffer zone” was only going to be a few meters wide.”
Pandacan:The Alternative Shell Report @ http://www.philsol.nl/pir/v3/AltShell.htm
Royal Dutch Shell’s tactics of using massive and all pervasive public relations strategy is well known to the UFO-OD. In circumstances very close to those in Rossport, where Shell and the government frame the debate as ‘issues to be managed’, the local population within Pandacan are under no illusions about the sincerity of soothing words spoken or printed by those paid to do so.
“That campaign promulgates misleading claims by the company, and also employs Shell’s increasingly routine tactic of enticing residents with “feel good” offers, such as scholarship programs and supposed employment opportunities, which, of course, do nothing to address residents’ complaints of environmental and health problems, as well as security concerns. Rather than acting as a socially responsible corporation, Shell perverts the principle of social responsibility into something more akin to “pay-offs” in an attempt to pacify serious local community concerns.”
It’s hardly surprising that local communities will fight tooth and nail, and with infinitely less resources and ‘expertise’ at their disposal. It is local communities and environment that have to social and environmental cost.
Trust in large multinational is not something that past experience suggests should be easily given. Whilst many corporations now produce corporate social responsibility reports, outlining how they intend to offset the negative impact of their activities, most if not are birthed by marketing and public relations depts. They are at their core the smoke and mirrors used to argue against tighter regulations. Within the companies the same cultures tend to exist. Perhaps this is because such companies only have one reason to exist.
The public are increasing aware of the lengths that companies will go to ensure and secure maximum profits. Often the hypocrisy is brazen. Only yesterday Shell Oil Co. President John Hofmeister argued against the Federal government introducing new regulations after massive corrosion was found in BP’s pipeline in Alaska a month ago. 270,000 gallons of oil escaped. BP failed to examine its pipeline to the required standard and had to shut off about half of crude oil production from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, the largest producing field in the U.S. and also one of the most delicate ecosystems on the planet.
"The regulations are appropriate," said Hofmeister "The judgment of the methodology and technology relied upon was not sufficient, but I don't think its warrants a complete review of regulatory authority. We have a robust system."
Again this is the language of technocrats and issue management. But perhaps if he had of delayed his comments 24 hours he might not seemed so foolish as tonight BP further cut back production to just over one quarter of normal production, citing further problems with their pipeline. More worrying is the fact that BP may have known about pipe corrosion that it now claims was ‘unforeseeable’. Criminal charges are being investigated focusing on a consultant engineering report that predicted such accelerated corrosion and still BP did not act.
(For more on BP very scary recent history in the USA check out to start of. http://environment.guardian.co.uk/energy/story/0,,18558....html)
Hofmeisters words do ring very hollow. But just to highlight how big companies like Shell like to grab all they can, and how government departments and individuals are up to their necks in it to we just need to wheel out that ever present excuse…why it’s THE CLERICAL ERROR. This excuse seems to pop up all the time, as is the given excuse for why Shell and other petro-chemicals are getting much of the gas and oil in the Gulf of Mexico royalty free. The American electorate is getting a bit uppity at escalating oil, gas and energy costs whist Shell et al are making massively growing profits with no public gain, with a total loss of up to $10 billion over the next 25 years.
Shell is also currently facing court actions in Nigeria for underpaying a total of $3.2 billion to the national exchequer. This comes out today after at least 10 militant activists were killed in Nigeria.
"Our response to Sunday's killings will come at our time, but for certain it will not go unpunished," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an email to Reuters." It was an unprovoked attack on people on a peaceful mission to free a hostage," the group added. State government officials frequently seek the help of militants to secure the release of hostages, and usually tip off security forces of any such operation to ensure they are not attacked.
The Defense Ministry expressed "deep regret" over the incident on Thursday and launched an investigation. MEND said it wanted to put an end to a string of kidnappings in the delta this month which saw 17 oil workers abducted in seven separate incidents. All but one has now been released. "The reason we decided to put a stop to this is the involvement of criminal elements who have no connection with our struggle," MEND said.
Dr. Rasheed Akinyemi, an expert in development studies, Department of Political Science, University of Lagos described the rising spate of hostage taking as a reaction to the continued frustration of the people - raging poverty, deprivation and environmental crisis despite the huge oil wealth being extracted from.
From Russia with Greed
The Russian authorities are also looking at taking legal action against Shell. Russia's Resources Ministry is set to complete an audit of Royal Dutch Shell's (RDSB) $20 billion gas project on Sakhalin Island next week. The findings are expected to increase pressure on Shell, which doubled the projected costs of the liquefied natural gas project last year. Earlier this month, the ministry's environmental monitoring arm threatened to take Shell to court, claiming the pipeline would create safety risks. The Shell-led project, which includes other multi-nationals like Mitsubishi and Mitsui, consists of three offshore platforms, offshore and onshore pipelines, an onshore processing facility, a liquefied natural gas facility, and an oil and gas terminal and has met with massive resistance.
Known as Sakhalin II, this ambitious project will have severe, if not irreversible environmental impacts, particularly as the oil pipeline will cross over 1,000 wild rivers and tributaries, many of them important to salmon spawning. In addition, a million tons of dredging waste has been dumped against public protest into Aniva Bay — an area crucial to the livelihood of the island’s indigenous community — has led the destruction of the local fishery and other marine species like scallops. It remains to be seen if the Natural Resources and Environmental departments concerns will be addressed
So perhaps the local community and those supporting and acting in solidarity will take solace in that fact that they are most definitely not alone. Their voices are not the voices of the margins, however much SEPIL and their hired conduits to the mainstream media might have us believe.