Environmentalists Sue Shell Over Port Of Providence Facility

Jun 29, 2018

An environmental advocacy group is suing Shell, the global oil and gas company, over a storage facility at the Port of Providence. They claim Shell is failing to protect it from the threat of climate change. 

The Conservation Law Foundation filed its lawsuit last fall in Rhode Island U.S. District Court. 

The organization is arguing that Shell is violating its permit by failing to use good engineering practices since the facility is built at sea level on the Providence River. 

Christopher Kilian, vice president of strategic litigation at the Conservation Law Foundation and lead attorney on the case, siad that’s a big concern if a major hurricane were to hit.

"A facility like this stores millions of gallons of products in tanks that if they are to breech or float off their moorings or if there’s a pipe that’s destabilized, can release massive amounts of oil out into the river," Kilian said. 

Kilian said Shell needs to develop a plan for rising sea levels, whether that means elevating its facility or moving it to higher ground.

"What isn’t a solution is leaving a very dirty facility like this right at sea level in a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone with no consideration of the impacts of climate change," he said. 

However, Shell wants the lawsuit thrown out. The company filed a motion to dismiss earlier this year saying risks from extreme weather events are speculative and remote.

A district court judge will make a decision on Shell's motion in the coming months.

The Conservation Law Foundation also claims Shell is violating its permit by failing to submit adequate spill control and counter measure plans to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; failing to develop a storm water pollution plan; failing to implement best management practices; and failing to monitor pollution from its facility. 

When asked via email if Shell was in violation of its permit, the Department of Environmental Management said "because its a pending case and given our sensitive position, we're not going to comment on it." 

Shell did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Shell's Providence Terminal spans across more than 20 acres of land and has been used for the storage and transfer of petroleum products for more than 20 years. 

* The headline for this story has been updated to reflect that the facility operates out of the Port of Providence but is not part of ProvPort.