The NY Times’ Jad Mouawad has an article (here) about the series of impending lawsuits against major oil companies, which have become possible due to a new reading of an old law – the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789. As it stands there are pending law suits working their way through the courts the titans of the oil industry, which has already been exposed to widespread populist anger last summer when gas prices peaked at over $4.00 a gallon. When one considers the hundreds of billions of dollars in profits that the major petroleum companies have made over the last decades, then it is hard to feel too sorry for them.
The Times piece focuses largely on the lawsuit being pushed forward by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., the son of the prominent human rights defender Ken Saro Wiwa, who was hung by the Abacha regime in 1995 while the Shell regime stayed almost entirely silent. Naturally, Shell has denied any wrong doing, but is clearly spooked that so much of its dirty laundry will apparently be hung out to dry as such a case moves forward. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Almost no industry deserves its comeuppance more than the oil industry. Sadly, they have proven extremely capable of dragging out legal cases for decades, as they have in Alaska following the Valdez spill or in Ecuador in the case of Chevron. Once can only hope that justice will finally be served.