CLF Sues Shell After DEM and EPA Ignore Company's Violations of Clean Water Act

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

The Providence Terminal is depicted as inundated, in whole or in part, by storm surge associated with Category 1, 2, 3 or 4 storm events in readily available model outcomes from state and federal agencies. (from CLF lawsuit)

The Providence Terminal is depicted as inundated, in whole or in part, by storm surge associated with Category 1, 2, 3 or 4 storm events in readily available model outcomes from state and federal agencies. (from CLF lawsuit)

PROVIDENCE — The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is again taking on a fossil-fuel titan. This time, the environmental legal firm is suing Royal Dutch Shell and its many subsidiaries for violating the Clean Water Act at its oil storage and fuel terminal on Allens Avenue.

CLF says it was forced to take Shell to court after the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were notified of Clean Water Act violations but failed to take action.

In addition to polluting the Providence River, the terminal is also accused of failing to plan for sea-level rise and other climate-change impacts. According to state flood maps, the terminal would be flooded by any category of hurricane.

“We can’t wait around for the next natural disaster to inundate our communities. Shell’s facility sits on the banks of the Providence River, poised to spew toxic chemicals into our waters and our neighborhoods with no adequate safeguards in place,” CLF president Bradley Campbell said.

The Shell lawsuit is similar to the one CLF filed against ExxonMobil last September. That case accuses the oil giant of failing to adequately protect the Mystic River and the city of Chelsea, Mass., from sea-level rise and for violations of the Clean Water Act. Part of lawsuit alleges that ExxonMobil suppressed it own research on the risks of climate change.

The first court date for the ExxonMobil lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 12.

The Providence lawsuit claims the Shell terminal discharges toxins into the Providence River. The pollutants pose a threat to marine life and humans, according to the lawsuit. CLF accuses Shell of failing to account for storm surge and increased precipitation as the Clean Water Act requires.

“Shell has knowledge of, and has validated, the scientific certainty that these impacts are occurring or will occur,” according to the lawsuit.

CLF also claims DEM isn't enforcing violations of Shell's Rhode Island Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, known as RIPDES.

The Shell terminal consists of 25 tanks containing gasoline, fuel oil, ethanol, jet fuel and diesel fuel. According to CLF, the facility also stores, handles and disposes of toxic chemicals and metals such as benzene, methyl tertiary butyl ether, and petroleum hydrocarbons.

Shell is the seventh-largest company in the world and the second-largest oil and gas company after ExxonMobil.