From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Firms told to shell out for workers’ fund
Tuesday 03 July 2012
by Our Foreign Desk
Oil giant Shell and the world’s largest chemical company BASF must pay $382 million (£243m) into a compensation fund for over 1,000 workers, a Brazilian judge has ruled.
Workers claim that they were contaminated by an agricultural chemical plant which operated from 1977 until it was closed in 2002.
Shell originally owned it but sold the operation to American Cyanamid in 1995, which was bought by BASF in 2000; they took over the plant in Paulinia.
In its 2011 annual report, BASF acknowledged the site was “significantly contaminated by the production of crop protection products.”
But it denies responsibility, claiming that the site was contaminated before it bought the plant. Last year, BASF filed a lawsuit in Brazil asking a court to hold Shell fully responsible for any damages.
BASF said on Monday it would appeal against the ruling by judge Maria Ines Correa Targa and Shell said it would abide by the decision pending a higher court’s ruling on the workers’ class-action lawsuit.
Prosecutors said that any money actually paid into the fund would be frozen until the workers’ damage suit is finalised – but they wanted it in the fund as a guarantee.
BASF and Shell were earlier ordered to make payments by two courts but the companies forced the case to appeal in a higher court.
Targa said in her ruling on Thursday that Shell and BASF had engaged in “reprehensible conduct” seeking to “circumvent their obligation.”
Prosecutors have said that former workers at the plant and people who live near it have many health problems, including prostate cancer, problems with short-term memory and issues with their thyroid glands.
At least 61 former workers at the plant have died in recent years.
Others have seen various health issues arise in children born since they worked at the site.
The class-action lawsuit before the court in Brasilia includes 782 former workers but the judges separate ruling on the compensation fund payment is for 1,142 people, including outsourced workers who are ill along with the children of former workers at the plant.
The Chinese city of Sifuang said today that it has scrapped plans for a copper plant after thousands of people protested about the project’s possible public health risks: here.
A group of 30 fishermen from China has sued ConocoPhillips in a US court over two oil spills from the company’s offshore drilling operations in north-eastern China last year: here.
US regulators proposed a $3.7 million (£2.36m) fine today against the Canadian owner of a pipeline that ruptured in 2010, dumping more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo river: here.