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Environmental Groups Take Legal Action Against TotalEnergies Over African Oil Project

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environmental groups take legal action against totalenergies over african oil project
environmental groups take legal action against totalenergies over african oil project
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Four environmental organizations have filed a lawsuit against the French company TotalEnergies over allegations of harming the environment in Tanzania and Uganda due to an oil project. The groups, which include Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal, and Stop EACOP-Stop Total, initiated this legal action on September 22. They argue that TotalEnergies must be held accountable for its role in contributing to climate change.

Lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth, representing the environmental groups, claim that the company should no longer be allowed to knowingly and freely contribute to climate change without consequences. They are seeking a criminal judgment, which is unusual in cases like this, as such matters have typically been dealt with in civil courts.

The groups accuse TotalEnergies of various charges related to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, including destruction, damage to property, endangering people, and inadequate disaster management. Human Rights Watch had previously called for a halt to the project, which involves a $10 billion deal between TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to develop oilfields in Uganda and transport crude through a 1,445-kilometer pipeline to Tanzania’s port of Tanga.

Rights activists and environmental organizations have criticized the project, which includes drilling around 400 oil wells in Murchison Falls Nature Park, Uganda’s largest national park and a biodiversity reserve. TotalEnergies argues that approximately 100,000 displaced people have been fairly compensated, and measures have been implemented to protect the environment.

TotalEnergies expressed its unawareness of the latest legal action and stated that it operates in compliance with its standards and relevant laws and regulations. Earlier this year, a French civil court dismissed a case against the company over the project on procedural grounds.

Despite the criticisms, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni remains committed to the project, anticipating economic benefits for the country. The environmental associations claim that the pipeline would lead to the impoverishment of local populations and have severe environmental consequences.

In 2019, the French NGO Les Amis de la Terre initiated legal action against the project, contending that it did not align with the 2015 Paris accord on reducing global carbon emissions. The lawyers in this latest case emphasize the potential chaos caused by rising temperatures if such projects continue and urge French authorities to compel TotalEnergies to shift its investment strategy towards renewable energy development.