In court

 
Published: Sunday 31 July 2005

Flaring concern: Nigeria's rural communities affected by gas-flaring recently filed a lawsuit in the federal High Court in Benin city to make oil giants Shell, Exxon, Chevron and Total desist from the illegal practice. The Nigerian government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation have also been named in the case, supported by environmental groups Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth.

Gas-flaring or the practice of burning off the excess gases was banned in Nigeria in 1984, but oil companies repeatedly got permission to continue the practice. The government claims it will put an end to the activity by 2008, but Shell has already expressed its inability to comply. According to the World Bank, gas-flaring causes more greenhouse gas emissions in sub-Saharan Africa than all other sources put together. The lawsuit says the obnoxious practice violates the human rights of the affected people.

victory log-in: US environmentalists have tasted their first success in preventing old-growth salvage logging under the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative, which promotes post-wildfire logging. They have been helped by a preliminary study on northern spotted owls in an area burned by the Timbered Rock fire in 2002. On June 27, 2005, US district judge Susan Illston in San Francisco ordered an end to logging of timber burned by the Sims fire in the 2.5 million hectares of the Six Rivers National Forest in northern California. She cited the study on the threatened owl species as one of the main reasons driving the ruling.

The study, conducted by Oregon State University researchers, says radio-telemetry tracking of five spotted owls in 2003-2004 showed they frequented the burned lands. It is part of a larger study due for publication in 2007. Illston charged the US Forest Service with ignoring this study and also the evidence provided by Jerry Franklin, a University of Washington-based expert, on the merits of leaving dead trees standing.

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