Total loses appeal of criminal conviction in oil spill

French oil firm Total SA took a major blow when its home country's top court ruled to uphold a criminal conviction of the company in association with a 1999 oil spill, according to Reuters.

An oil tanker hired by the company spilled around 20,000 tons of oil along the coast of Brittany in northwestern France after it ran aground during a storm.

Total has already paid more than 500 million in fines and cleanup costs for the spill, but the company has been primarily focused in recent years on overturning a criminal conviction holding it responsible for the disaster.

That practice runs against international standards established in the 1992 Civil Liability Convention, but the conviction was nonetheless upheld by an appeals court in 2008, and now by the highest court in France. The last remaining option would be to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"[The decision is] very important for the future," former environment minister Corinne Lepage told BFM TV. "It means oil companies will have to pay when they are careless and use junk ships like Total did with the Erika."

Oil companies have had to deal with increasing accountability, as Brazil actually brought criminal negligence cases against Chevron executives following a major spill off its coast.

Reports on Total can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.


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