Climate Change: President Biden reneges on pledge to end oil drilling in federal lands

By Edu Abade

  • Environmentalists condemn Shell’s pipeline explosion in Rivers, say it’s one ugly incident too many
A global group advocating quick action on climate change has decried President of the United States of America (USA), Joe Biden, for breaking his promise to the American people during his 2020 electioneering campaign as candidate of the Democratic Party that there will be “no more drilling on federal lands.”

But on Monday this week, the group noted that President Biden reneged on his pledge by approving an enormous oil drilling project on federal land in Alaska, which is expected to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day for the next three decades–thereby releasing up to 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere on daily basis.

We Don’t Have Time, an international group canvassing real-time, speedy global action on climate change, described the move as ‘a betrayal of the American people’ with regard to the challenges posed by climate change, saying: “This is bad news for everyone concerned about our planet.

“Among big oil executives, though, optimism is returning. At the recent U.S. energy event CERAweek, heads of companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and the lobby group, the American Petroleum Institute (API) gathered to talk about the brightened outlook for fossil energy.”

As one executive said: “Our strategy is to stay as oily as we can for as long as we can,” adding: “However, there is good news as well. The European Union (EU) has promised to push for a global phase-out of fossil fuels during the UN Climate Conference COP28 in December this year.

Corporate Accountability and Public Africa (CAPPA)
Corporate Accountability and Public Africa (CAPPA)

Meanwhile, the Corporate Accountability and Public Africa (CAPPA) has condemned the recent explosion of an oil pipeline facility owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), which claimed 12 lives in Rumuekpe community, Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State.

It explained that a recent oil pipeline explosion was traced to an alleged illegal oil bunkering occurred yet again, pointing out that some initial reports issued by the Rivers State Police Command confirmed that the victims were scooping crude products from a leaking Shell facility when the site caught fire.

Noticeable across the community are exposed webs of pipelines that are said to be sites for refined crude oil products against the effort of stakeholders in tackling the menace. CAPPA said that it is on record that Shell’s operations in Rumuekpe and its environs have not been without some avoidable challenges, especially spillages, explosions and lingering environmental impacts.

Rumuekpe hosts 24-inch and 28-inch pipelines that aid the loading, gathering, and transport of oil exports to terminals in Bonny. Before the recent explosion, environmentalist with the Environmental Rights Action, Kentebe Ebiaridor said that the community was home to a variety of exotic animals but most of its animal population has waned due to oil extraction. The community has also witnessed communal strife associated with oil politics by Shell and other oil majors like Chevron Nigeria Limited and Total.

In a statement issued by Olamide Martins and made available to journalists in Lagos, CAPPA described the incident as unfortunate and one that confirmed the vulnerability and exposure of the community to the consequences of extractivism and corporate subservience, noting that it also exposed Shell’s response to disaster in communities where it operates.

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“Against the clear intentions of Chapter three of the Petroleum Industry Act which frowns at any infractions in host communities, Shell has failed to protect its facilities.

“This chapter demands absolute protection of host communities and provides for commiserate remediation, and compensation for cases of environmental disasters, operational breaches, and mismanagement related to oil production,” the statement reads.

“In the same vein, Section 234 of the Act posits that mining operations or related practices in the host communities must only deliver sustainable prosperity, social and economic benefits, local content development, etc, and not the massive environmental destruction, displacement, and potential social unrest as seen in Rumuekpe and elsewhere,” it added.

The group restated that blame-shifting and delayed response, which Shell uses to dodge responsibility, is strange to the extant laws and only reiterates the priority of the company for profit over people.

“Also condemnable are cases of inside collusion of oil workers, their local collaborators and security personnel to distort operational procedures. CAPPA’s stance has always been that oil companies including Shell act responsibly by leaving our oil in the ground considering the evident contributions of its continuous exploration to climate change and environmental degradations.

“We urge the Nigerian government to give life to the letters of the law by protecting the rights of local and indigenous landowners and to show seriousness in funding a just transition from fossil fuels that protects the rights of landowners and labor movements, and puts an end to corporate impunity, social immunity and recklessness,” it further stated.

It stressed that addressing the concerns of locals must also include conducting an independent and comprehensive environmental audit of vulnerable hotspots in the Niger Delta and prevailing on big polluters to own up, pay up and clean up for their pollution and human rights abuses.

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