Fluoride Action Network

Local, international activists unite against Shell

Source: The Natal Witness (South Africa) | Durban Bureau
Posted on November 12th, 2002
Location: South Africa
Industry type: Oil Refineries

Pietermaritzburg-based award-winning environmental activist Bobby Peek on Monday joined forces with American activists to take on the Royal Dutch Shell petroleum company.

He was joined by the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance chairman Desmond D’Sa. Both handed over a copy of a new book that focuses on environmental abuses titled Riding the Dragon: Royal Dutch Shell & The Fossil Fire, to the Royal Dutch Shell International MD.

At the same time protests took place in Nigeria, Manila and in South Durban outside the Sapref factory.

“Shell’s oil refinery in South Africa is an apartheid relic that is presently crumbling. The plant has had more than 17 major incidents since January 2001, impacting directly on the people in South Durban and they have a right to call for government to shut it down,” said Peek.

D’Sa said he is concerned about the safety of people in South Durban. “Must we die as a result of an industrial incident before government will listen to us?” he asked.

The results of an air quality sample taken outside Sapref two weeks ago – on the day the company burned gases for four hours – will be announced soon.

There have been 23 major incidents at the South Durban Sapref plant in less than four years, including the world’s largest underground oil spill. There was also an incident where 25 tons of toxic tetra ethyl lead, a neuro-toxin, was leaked and where 15 000 litres of marine fuel oil spilled into Durban harbour.

In February 2000 Sapref admitted that it has been under-reporting sulphur dioxide emissions by as much as 12 tons per day.

In 1998 Sapref lost more than five tons of hydrofluoric acid in a fire. HF is lethal and can kill on contact, as was the case in 2001 when a worker died at the Engen refinery after being exposed to it.

Nigerian oil activist and author Nnimmo Bassey, who is campaigning against environmental degradation by oil companies in the U.S., will join Peek and D’Sa. They have combined their campaigning since they met in South Durban in 2000 at the International Oil Watch Conference.

The American activists who joined Peek and D’Sa in confronting Shell are Iris Carter, a Shell neighbour in Louisiana who helped her community win relocation from their troubled facility; Hilton Kelley, a Shell neighbour in Texas campaigning for lower toxic pollution and reducing frequent chemical spills from their plant, and Denny Larson, Co-ordinator of the Refinery Reform Campaign, a U.S.-based group formed to clean up oil refinery pollution.

The book focusing on the world’s second largest oil company was written by Jack Doyle, who earlier wrote Taken For a Ride, a highly-regarded expose of the U.S. car industry. The book will be available from November 14 at www.shellfacts.com.