NPR logo Big Oil Steps Up To Niger Delta Spills

Big Oil Steps Up To Niger Delta Spills

We have discussed the true price to be paid for energy extraction (and use) many times on this blog. Thus this story, from New Scientist, on the Niger Delta may be of some interest. As the story states,

The Niger delta has been suffering oil spills for 50 years, culminating in two major spills in 2008. The clear-up may take up to 30 years, according to a UN report published yesterday.

The report also finds that some drinking water in the area is contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at 900 times recommended levels. "Public health is seriously threatened," according to a statement from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said: "The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines."

Of more interest is the fact that a day before the report was issued Shell Oil issued a statement taking responsibility for two of the spills. According to New Scientist,

The firm had previously maintained that sabotage was to blame for the spills. Shell is currently being sued by the Bodo fishing community of Nigeria's Ogoniland region, who claim that the spills have destroyed their environment and ruined their livelihoods.

Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian, Patrick Naagbanton, coordinator for the Centre of Environment and Human Rights, said: "The news that Shell has accepted liability in Britain will be greeted with joy in the delta. The British courts may now be inundated with legitimate complaints."

This is a remarkable development and it will be worth watching what happens next.