Description: Citizen suit alleging that Shell Oil violated the Clean Water Act by failing to prepare a bulk storage and fuel terminal in Providence, Rhode Island, for climate change impacts.
Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. v. Shell Oil Products US
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 01/12/2018 Motion to Dismiss Download Motion to dismiss filed. Shell Asked Rhode Island Federal Court to Dismiss Citizen Suit Asserting That Failure to Prepare Terminal for Climate Change Violated Clean Water Act and RCRA. On January 12, 2018, Shell Oil entities (Shell) moved to dismiss the citizen suit brought by Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in the federal district court for the District of Rhode Island alleging that Shell violated the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at a bulk storage and fuel terminal in Providence. CLF alleged in an amended complaint filed in October 2017 that Shell had not taken information about climate change risks into account in designing, constructing, and operating the terminal. CLF asserted that Shell’s disregard of the risks and continuing failure to protect the terminal from the risk made Shell liable for violations of the Clean Water Act and RCRA. In the motion to dismiss, Shell argued that CLF lacked standing because the alleged injuries were “highly speculative, remote, or hypothetical” and also flowed from severe precipitation and flooding events that were “wholly unrelated” to the defendants. Shell also asserted that the complaint’s adaptation claims were not ripe and that CLF failed to state a claim under either the Clean Water Act or RCRA because its “failure to adapt” allegations amounted to “conclusory legal statements.” Shell also said the court should defer to Rhode Island—which Shell said was “actively evaluating new measures for controlling the flow of stormwater discharges attributable to potential severe precipitation and flooding related to climate change”—and abstain from considering the Clean Water Act adaptation claims. Shell further asserted that the RCRA claim should be dismissed under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction because Rhode Island’s environmental agency was overseeing cleanup of the facility and was obligated by statute to take climate change impacts into account. In addition, Shell said the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the terminal’s former owner/operator. 10/25/2017 Complaint Download Amended complaint filed. 08/28/2017 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Conservation Law Foundation Filed Lawsuit Alleging Shell Violated Clean Water Act by Failing to Prepare Providence Fuel Terminal for Climate Change. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a citizen suit against Shell Oil entities (Shell) alleging that they had failed to comply with the Clean Water Act and a Rhode Island Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit at their bulk storage and fuel terminal in Providence, Rhode Island (Providence Terminal). CLF alleged that the Providence Terminal was “at risk from coastal flooding caused by sea level rise, increased and/or more intense precipitation, increased magnitude and frequency of storm events, and increased magnitude and frequency of storm surges—all of which will become, and are becoming, worse as a result of climate change.” CLF also alleged that the terminal’s location, elevation, and lack of preventative infrastructure made it “especially vulnerable to these risks” and that Shell Oil had not taken action to address these vulnerabilities at Providence Terminal, despite having “long been well aware” of climate change’s impacts and risks and having incorporated such risks in “ongoing company investments,” including projects off the coast of Nova Scotia and in the North Sea. CLF asserted that Shell’s “knowing disregard of the imminent risks” of climate change and failure to fortify the Providence Terminal against such risks constituted violations of the Clean Water Act. CLF identified 19 separate causes of action for violation of the Clean Water Act and sought civil penalties, environmental restoration and compensatory mitigation to address past violations, and declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent future violations.