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Prosecutors seek maximum fine for Total in 1999 'Erika' oil spill

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-11-10

Prosecutors on Tuesday repeated a request that Total be ordered to pay the maximum fine for polluting as the oil giant appeals a January 2007 decision for a massive fuel spill along the coast of Brittany in 1999.

Prosecutors on Tuesday repeated a request that Total SA be ordered to pay the maximum fine for polluting as the oil giant appeals a 375,000 euro fine levied in a January 2007 decision for a massive fuel spill along the coast of Brittany in 1999.

A French court had fined Total 375,000 euros for maritime pollution and almost 200 million euros in damages, most of which would be paid to French regional governments and environmental groups, including Greenpeace. The plaintiffs include several local authorities affected by the disaster and many of those involved in the extensive cleanup operations that followed the disaster.

In a legal first, the judgment cited “ecological prejudice” in awarding compensation to those who took part in rescuing some 150,000 oil-covered birds.

On a 1999 voyage bound for Livorno in Italy, the Erika oil tanker left Dunkirk, France on December 8 with a cargo of some 20,000 tons of fuel oil. After hitting inclement weather and heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay, the Erika broke in half and sank, releasing its crude cargo into the sea, coating 400 km of the Brittany coast with oil and killing thousands of birds as well as marine life.

Fifteen companies and individual defendants were charged with negligence in connection with the disaster. Six of them, including Total SA, two of its subsidiaries, the ship’s owner and the Italian shipping registry that declared the Erika seaworthy, have filed appeals.

The ship’s captain and rescue workers were found not guilty of wrongdoing during the first trial.

Total’s appeal opened today in Paris and is scheduled to run until November 18.
 

Date created : 2009-11-10

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