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    Group Bills Shell Oil Co. for Wetlands Loss

    Thirty organizations asked the oil company to pay Louisiana nearly $362 million.

    HOUMA, La. -- Thirty organizations, including the Louisiana Shrimp Association and Greenpeace USA have sent a letter to Shell Oil Co., asking it to reimburse the state of Louisiana nearly $362 million for wetland loss caused by the company’s pipeline canal dredging in coastal areas, Houma Today reported.

    "There is solid evidence that 40 to 60 percent of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands loss can be traced to oil and gas activities," Aaron Viles, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, the group leading the call, told the paper. "It is only fair that companies like Shell pay for the cost of the damage they have caused."

    Shell dredged 8.8 million cubic yards of material while laying pipelines since 1983, according to records from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources obtained by the Gulf Restoration Network and cited by the paper. These activities have caused the loss of 22,624 acres of wetlands in the last 25 years, the report stated.

    The Gulf Restoration Network chose Shell because it has shown interest in the issue, such as its sponsorship of the America’s Wetland campaign, Viles stated.

    "So we’re asking that if you believe this cause is so important, why not contribute directly?" Viles told the paper.

    Shell officials told the paper that the company supports many wetland restoration efforts already.

    "With nearly 4,000 employees in Louisiana, Shell cares about the state where we live and work. We take care to be a good neighbor in our communities. Shell is proud to be one of the strongest supporters of wetland initiatives," Shell spokeswoman Robin Lebovitz said in a written statement cited by the paper.

    She added the company believes the best solution for coastal preservation is the federal offshore oil and gas revenue sharing program, which pays 37.5 percent of revenues from new leases with four Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana.

    Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas
    Association, affirmed that the oil and gas industry has contributed to coastal restoration programs for many years, in addition to fueling the engine of the state’s robust economy, according to the report.

    "It’s a well-known scientific fact that the diversion of the Mississippi River is the main cause of this problem, and many other factors have contributed to this problem," he told the paper. "When true scientists put their pencil to it, the oil and gas industry’s contribution was as little as 12 percent. For these environmental groups to be asking the oil and gas industry for money or insinuate that they should pay for all the loss of wetlands is absurd."

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