Kelly op de Weegh: Focus on communities

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In Routt and Moffat counties, Shell Oil is focused on responsible oil exploration. And our approach to explore such energy resources is rooted in our core value of personnel and process safety. The safety of our employees, contractors and community neighbors is priority No. 1.

In her recent letter to the editor, Mary Walker (“Hold Shell accountable,” May 23 Steamboat Today) expressed concern for how Shell operates in Nigeria. It’s important to have an accurate account of the political and environmental landscape in Nigeria.

As with each area where Shell operates around the globe, we remain committed to operating to a high standard and improving performance. In Nigeria, specifically, we partner with others to help bring improvements to the broader challenges in that country — namely illegal refining, widespread oil theft and sabotage, corruption and social welfare. Most spills in recent years in the Niger Delta have been the result of illegal activity by criminal gangs. Until effective measures are found to end these practices, spills will continue to be a problem. This greatly concerns Shell and the people in Nigeria. Shell is working with its partners, the government and others about how to find solutions to these activities.

A fair distribution of resources from energy production in Nigeria also is extremely vital. Shell publishes every dollar of every tax and royalty we pay, and we are strong and public advocates of fair distribution, in particular into communities near oil and gas operations. Nigeria is a major world energy player with room for growth, and energy development in the country should deliver benefits for those who live there. The Shell joint-venture in Nigeria, of which the Nigerian government owns 55 percent, can be a successful energy company and an active partner in creating a better future for the people of Nigeria. In fact, 95 percent of the profit from every barrel of oil produced by the Shell joint-venture in Nigeria goes to the Nigerian government.

But, like other countries trying to grow and improve living standards, Nigeria faces challenges. It has a large population, and this increases demand for state resources and public services. Few people in the delta, from where the oil comes, have benefited. Unemployment and poverty remain high. While Shell sees some progress in Nigeria, the fact remains that large-scale oil theft, violence and illegal oil refining by gangs causes environmental damage. A government amnesty for militants has improved security, and this increased security can allow the energy industry to increase infrastructure maintenance and, ultimately, to grow revenue for the government.

Focusing back now on your community, Shell follows state and federal laws, stringent Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulations and recommended industry practices. But we also require all Shell-operated onshore projects to adhere to our own industry-leading “Onshore Principles.” These include responsible practices for safety and well integrity, water, air, footprint and community. You can learn more about our principles at www.shell.us.

We look forward to continuing an open dialog with those in the community, to further discuss our exploration plans and to answer your questions.

Kelly op de Weegh

Shell Oil Co.

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