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French court dismisses lawsuit against TotalEnergies E. Africa oil project

PARIS – A French court on Tuesday dismissed a landmark case against TotalEnergies over a massive oil project in Uganda and Tanzania after several NGOs filed lawsuits to suspend the controversial project.

It was the first such case in France, and activists had hoped it would set a precedent to stop projects deemed harmful to the environment and human rights.

Six NGOs that filed the lawsuit argued the development of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) violated a “duty of vigilance,” a 2017 law that forces companies to avoid serious harm to human rights, health, safety and security and avoid the environment.

The court on Tuesday ruled the case “inadmissible,” saying the plaintiffs failed to correctly follow the court procedure against the French energy giant.

The plaintiffs presented accounts to the court in December that differed “materially” from those presented in a formal notice to TotalEnergies in 2019 when the case was initiated.

The lawsuit was filed by two French and four Ugandan NGOs, who accused TotalEnergies of taking land from more than 100,000 people without adequate compensation.

They also said the company has drilled wells in the biodiverse Murchison Falls National Park on the shores of Lake Albert.

Friends of the Earth and Survival, the two French NGOs and the Ugandan groups denied significantly altering their submissions to the court.

They “just clarified them and consolidated their arguments with more than 200 supporting documents,” said Juliette Renaud, an activist with Friends of the Earth.

The plaintiffs, who can appeal the decision, said they would be talking to “the affected communities” about next steps, Renaud added.

– economic boon –

TotalEnergies welcomed the verdict.

It told AFP the ruling recognized that the company had “formally drawn up a vigilance plan,” the elements of which are “sufficiently precise not to be considered superficial.”

The $10 billion oil field and pipeline project has been hailed by advocates as an economic boon for Uganda and Tanzania, where many live in poverty, but faces strong opposition from environmentalists.

The project is being developed jointly by TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the state-owned Uganda National Oil Company.

The 1,443-kilometer (900-mile) pipeline will transport crude oil from vast oilfields being developed in Lake Albert in northwestern Uganda to a Tanzanian port on the Indian Ocean.

Lake Albert, a natural border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sits on an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil, of which about 1.4 billion barrels are currently considered recoverable.

Tanzanian Energy Minister Jan Makamba this month dismissed the environmental and human rights concerns as “propaganda,” saying the country adheres to environmental, safety and human rights standards.

Tuesday’s ruling in France is the first instance in which the “duty of vigilance” will be put to the test in a courtroom.

Several lawsuits are pending against other French companies, including Casino, Suez, Yves Rocher and BNP Paribas, for failing to comply with the “duty of vigilance”.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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