Shell Defends Environmental Record in Argentina

Says operations are conducted according to local legislation

Royal Dutch Shell on Sept. 6 defended standards at its Argentina operations after authorities there closed a Shell refinery near Buenos Aires on environmental grounds. "All of our operations were and still are conducted according to the local legislation and strengthened Shell standards," a company spokesman said.

"Shell Argentina is analyzing the documentation received and the allegations made by the environmental secretariat. Our response to them will be provided soon," he said. On Sept. 5, Argentine authorities ordered a Shell oil refinery to shut down in the Dock Sud area of Buenos Aires owing to environmental reasons. Regulatory authorities said that pollution had been found in soil samples near the refinery. Among other complaints, they also alleged that the facility was taking water from the River Plate estuary without the necessary paperwork.

The development marked Royal Dutch Shell's latest run-in with the government of Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. In early July, Kirchner's government announced a series of fines against Shell for violations of the rarely invoked 1974 Law of Supply that targets fuel hoarding and price-fixing. In addition to fines, the law -- revoked in 1991 and reinstated in 1999 -- also calls for up to four years prison for law breakers. Argentina's Internal Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno recently took Shell to court over its alleged violations and requested that top company executives be placed under arrest.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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