French court dismisses lawsuit against TotalEnergies East Africa oil project

A French court dismissed a landmark case against a major oil project by TotalEnergies in Uganda and Tanzania on Tuesday, Feb. 28, after several NGOs filed a lawsuit seeking a moratorium on the controversial project.

It is the first case of its kind in France and activists had hoped it would serve as a legal precedent to halt projects deemed harmful to the environment and human rights.

Six NGOs filing the lawsuit argue that the development of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) failed to comply with the “duty of care”, a 2017 law that forces companies to avoid harm to human rights, health, safety and the environment. serious damage.

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The court ruled the case “inadmissible” on Tuesday, saying the plaintiffs had not properly followed court procedures against the French energy giant.

It said the accounts that the plaintiffs filed with the court in December were “substantially different” from those submitted to TotalEnergies in a formal notice when the case was launched in 2019.

The lawsuit, brought by two French and four Ugandan NGOs, accuses TotalEnergies of taking land from more than 100,000 people without adequate compensation. They also said the company drilled wells in the biodiversity-rich Murchison Falls National Park along the shores of Lake Albert.

Friends of the Earth and Survival, the two French NGOs and the Ugandan organization, denied substantially redacting their court submissions. Friends of the Earth activist Juliette Renaud said they “just clarified and strengthened their argument with more than 200 documents supporting the evidence”.

Plaintiffs, who can appeal the decision, said they would discuss next steps with “affected communities,” Renaud added.

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economic welfare

The $10 billion oilfield and pipeline project has been hailed as an economic boon for Uganda and Tanzania, but has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists, many of whom live in poverty.


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The project is jointly developed by TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and state-owned Uganda National Oil Corporation. The 1,443-kilometre pipeline will carry crude oil from a huge field being developed at Lake Albert in northwestern Uganda to a Tanzanian port on the Indian Ocean.

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

Tanzania’s Energy Minister January Makamba this month rejected environmental and rights concerns as “propaganda”, saying the country complies with environmental, safety and human rights standards.

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Tuesday’s ruling in France was the first to test the “duty of vigilance” in court. Several legal proceedings are underway against other French companies, including Casino, Suez, Yves Rocher and BNP Paribas, for failing to comply with the “duty of vigilance”.

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