French courts have set a legal precedent by charging Total--the world's fourth largest oil company--not only damages related to cleaning up the 1999 oil spill caused by the sinking of the Erika, but also for any damage done to the environment as a result of the accident. They're calling it Environmental Prejudice.
The sinking of the Erika resulted in the deaths of over 150,000 sea birds, and a spill that affected over 400 km of France's coastline.
According to France 24, the Economic Research Institute (INRA) has estimated the value of the ecological damage at 350 million euros. The prosecution, including the French state, claims a billon euros.
What I find so interesting about the court's ruling is the way in which we perceive the danger of who pollutes, where the accountability falls on the shoulders of Total, and not on the driver of the cargo ship.
I tried to find information about the current status of the November 7, 2007 Cosco disaster in the SF Bay. All I've found is that cleanup costs were around $61 million. Who is being held accountable? The irresponsible captain who rammed the Bay Bridge, or the company that sees it fitting to haul 65,000 tons of toxicity across our seas-- not only habitats for so much wildlife, but also for our food source?
My hope is that the French Court's decision will set a global precedent, not merely a European one, and that the responsibility for the inherent dangers in wheeling and dealing toxicity and poison falls directly on the shoulders of those who produce it.