Shell green record holds lessons for Big Oil - book
NEW YORK - All big oil companies have their share of environmental record blemishes, but examining the way Royal Dutch Shell has dealt with its problems may lead the industry to a greener future, according to a new book.
In \"Riding The Dragon: Royal Dutch Shell and the Fossil Fire,\" Jack Doyle chronicles a sampling of 300 incidents of fires, leaks and explosions throughout the petroleum infrastructure of the world\'s second-largest oil firm, including in the United States, Nigeria and South Africa.
The message of the book, published by The Environmental Health Fund in Boston, \"is not to suggest that Shell is any worse a performer than any other major oil company,\" wrote Doyle, head of Washington-based business investigative firm J.D. Associates.
The book aims to \"put the record of a good oil company squarely in the public light to generate debate for public purposes and hoped-for change,\" wrote Doyle, who plans to write about other energy companies.
Shell told Reuters the incidents described in the book, including the May, 1988, explosion at the Norco oil refinery in Louisiana that killed eight workers, have already been disclosed.
\"The book covers a number of incidents which have been made public before and it does not appear to publish any new information or provide any new analysis of those incidents,\" said Royal Dutch Shell spokesman Michael McGarry in New York.
McGarry said Shell is doing all it can to ensure the safety and health of its workers and communities near its petrochemical plants and pipelines.
He also pointed to Shell\'s decision last year against developing land rich in natural gas in Bangladesh, home to the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, after meeting with green group Friends of the Earth.
Also, Shell has received some praise in environmental circles, particularly for committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by the end of 2002.
But it was Shell\'s positive handling of chronic pollution problems at the Louisiana Norco plant that drove Doyle to focus on Shell.
The nearby community of Diamond, 25 miles north of New Orleans and inhabited mostly by descendants of slaves, sits between the Norco refinery-now jointly owned by Shell and Saudi Arabia\'s state oil company Saudi Aramco-and a Shell chemical plant.
Air and water tests there have chronically failed federal standards. After years of pressure by activists, Shell this summer offered home buyouts in Diamond, giving residents a choice between home improvement loans of $25,000, forgivable after five years, or to sell their homes to Shell at an appraised value.
Doyle, who wrote that Shell has more talent and knowledge than many governments and universities, said that energy companies are becoming more willing to work with green groups, but that more needs to be done.
\"Shell was chosen in part because it\'s a company that has...evidenced in the case of Norco that it was able to sit down with a community and negotiate an agreement. There is some light there in the company in terms of what it can do when it is confronted with constructive criticism.\"
Story by Timothy Gardner
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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