Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Climate and energy transition

Environment - 23.01.2008

Erika oil spill ruling "a victory for local and national government!"
The Erika ruling might set a legal precedent in favour of Europe's local and regional government. French oil company Total has been found guilty of negligence that led to the sinking of the tanker Erika off the coasts of Brittany in 1999.
The court has imposed a €375,000 fine and ordered Total and other parties to pay some €200m in civil compensation, on 16 January 2008. Three French regions (Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Poitou-Charentes), four "départements" and a dozen of municipalities have been awarded a total of €15 million in damages.
President of the Pays de la Loire Regional Council and chair of CEMR's transport working group, Jacques Auxiette states : This is a victory for local and regional governments since they got what they asked for. Total has been sentenced to the maximum allowed penalty, and for the first time a French court has recognised the principle of ecological prejudice.
Though Total can still appeal, the fact remains that a court in a EU Member State has set a legal precedent in favour of local and regional government, adds CEMR director of policy Angelika Poth-Mögele. This landmark ruling could help towns and regions sue companies and individuals in future ecological disasters.
In December 1999, oil tanker Erika sank off the coast of France releasing around 20,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in Europe.
The catastrophe prompted the EU to adopt a series of measures (Erika I and II packages) to improve maritime safety. One of such measures was the banning of single hull tankers in the EU.
The full ruling (bottom of the page - in French only)
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