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Repsol Will Be Sued By Peru For A $4.5 Billion Oil Spill

Repsol Will Be Sued By Peru For A $4.5 Billion Oil Spill
The consumer protection agency of Peru is suing the Spanish oil company Repsol for a massive oil spill that occurred off the coast of Lima in January and stained the beaches there. More than 10,000 barrels of oil leaked into the Pacific Ocean during the spill, which Peru described as the worst environmental catastrophe to hit the Lima area in recent memory.
The civil lawsuit asks for $3 billion in environmental damages and $1.5 billion in local-citizen damages.
Initially, the company claimed that "sudden and extraordinary anomalous waves produced by the volcanic eruption in Tonga" were to blame for the spill. Later, it did, however, blame the oil tanker.
A Peruvian judge acknowledged the $4.5 billion lawsuit filed by Indecopi against Repsol on Tuesday, which means the case will be heard in court.
On January 15, an oil spill was brought on by a company-owned underwater oil pipeline. It took place as the Mare Doricum, an Italian-flagged tanker, was unloading at Repsol's La Pampilla refinery. The spill was not Repsol's fault, and the company described the claim as "baseless, inadmissible, and inconsistent."
"We have not yet been notified of the court's acceptance of the complaint, and we do not know the details of the acceptance," a spokesperson for the firm told the BBC.
"We reiterate that the causes are still under investigation, but that the preliminary findings indicate that it was caused by an uncontrolled movement by the Mare Doricum vessel while it was unloading crude at the terminal."
"Even so, Repsol has used all means at its disposal to contain, clean, and remediate the coastline, assist the communities in the area, and rescue and attend to the fauna affected by the oil spill," the spokesperson added.
The spill was referred to as "one of the biggest ecocides ever on our coasts and seas" earlier this year by President Pedro Castillo. The disaster also cost hundreds of fishermen and hotel employees their livelihoods, according to the Peruvian environment ministry.
Local fishermen protested because the spill prevented them from going out to sea and working. According to Indecopi, the environment and fishermen are still being negatively impacted by the ecological damage.
"We are looking to get compensation for the affected population... that lives within 150km of contaminated coast," said Julian Palacin, the head of Indecopi, in a statement.
Prosecutors started a criminal investigation into Repsol's involvement in the incident in January as well. In light of the ongoing investigation, four company executives were prohibited from leaving the country for 18 months.
Repsol estimated the clean-up would cost the company $150 million in May.
Last year, Repsol reported net income of €2.499 billion, sixteen times the expense of cleanup.
According to Stuart Haszeldine, a professor of geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, "cities and nations have a right to expect safe transport of oil and gas."
"There is no established market to buy a clean beach or a seabird colony - inevitably large and financially well-resourced oil companies can deploy cash, lobbyists and legal teams to delay and defocus the blame game away from their responsibility," he said.
"This will be a contest on the strength of Peru's legal system to enforce environmental justice onto an unwilling and well-resourced multinational."
"The final settlement may be influenced as much by Repsol's valuation of its own reputation and future permissions to operate globally," he added.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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