oil spills

Arctic oil scramble in offing after GOP tax bill

As a part of the Republican tax overhaul bill, Congress voted Dec. 20 to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, after more than four decades of contestation on the matter. The House voted 224-201 to pass the bill, mostly along party lines. This finalizes the legislation, as the Senate version was passed by a 51-48 party-line vote earlier in the day. Once President Trump signs the law, the oil industry will have finally achieved a long-sought goal. "We're going to start drilling in ANWR, one of the largest oil reserves in the world, that for 40 years this country was unable to touch. That by itself would be a massive bill," Trump boasted. "They've been trying to get that, the Bushes, everybody. All the way back to Reagan, Reagan tried to get it. Bush tried to get it. Everybody tried to get it. They couldn't get it passed. That just happens to be here."

Trump approves pipelines, withdraws from TPP: contradiction?

President Trump on Jan. 24 signed orders giving the go-ahead for construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, which had been halted by the Obama administration. Obama's State Department rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Army Corps of Engineers had ordered work halted on the Dakota pipeline after weeks of protests by Native American groups and their activist allies. In a signing statement, Trump said the Keystone XL project will mean "a lot of jobs, 28,000 construction jobs, great construction jobs." In its own statement, TransCanada, the company seeking to build Keystone XL, said it "appreciate[s] the President of the United States inviting us to re-apply for KXL. We are currently preparing the application and intend to do so."

Peru: yet another spill from trans-Andean pipeline

A new spill on Peru's northern trans-Andean oil pipeline has contaminated a rainforest community—the fourth rupture from the 40-year-old pipeline this year. Villagers from the indigenous community of Uchichiangos noticed the new leak early on Aug. 10, according to a representative of the province of Condorcanqui, Amazonas region. Some 90 local residents have been affected, with 12 homes damaged by oil, and 15 hectares of yucca and other crops fouled. Parastatal PetroPerú, which runs the pipeline, has acknowledged the spill in a statement, vaguely blaming it on "third parties."

US court rules for Chevron in Ecuador pollution case

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Aug. 8 affirmed (PDF) a lower court ruling that barred Ecuadoran plaintiffs from collecting a $8.646 billion Ecuadoran judgment against Chevron Corp. The lower court had concluded in 2014 that the Ecuadoran judgment was obtained through corruption and fraud and barred the plaintiffs' attorney, Steven Donziger, from attempting to enforce the judgment or profit from the award anywhere in the world. The appeals court affirmed the lower court's judgment that concluded that Donziger and his team had secretly authored the judgment and offered the Ecuadoran judge $500,000 to sign it. The appeals court also said that the lower court's decision does not invalidate the judgment and does not prevent the enforcement of the judgment outside the US. The dispute arises from allegations by Ecuadoran plaintiffs of Chevron's  role in environmental damage in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron disputes these claims, while Donziger maintains his innocence and that he is the victim of a coordinated campaign against him by Chevron.

Peru: another spill from trans-Andean oil pipeline

Peru's northern trans-Andean oil pipeline suffered its third serious rupture of the year June 24, spilling over 1,000 barrels of crude into an expanse of the Amazon rainforest. An area of 16,000 square meters is said to be contaminated in Barranca district, Datem del Marañón province, Loreto region. PetroPerú, the parastatal that runs the pipeline, has instated an emergency "contingency plan" and says it has contained the spill. But a preliminary report by the Dátem del Marañón Health Network, part of the Loreto Regional Health Office (DIRESA) warns that contract workers and local residents involved in the clean-up effort lacked special equipment.. Health risks could include "poisoning and burns" from direct exposure to the oil. (EFE, June 27; La República, RPP, Peru21, Mongabay, June 25; El Comercio, June 24)

Colombia: campesinos block oil operation

Colombia's feared anti-riot force, the ESMAD, used tear-gas June 20 against campesinos occupying lands in the Amazonian department of Caquetá to block oil exploration efforts. Seismic activities are being carried out in the municipalities of Valparaiso and Milan y Morelia by a contractor for firm Emerald Energy. Protest leader José Antonio Saldarriaga said: "We defend our territory, the water and the future for the next generations... It caused us much sadness that 95% has been displaced by violence, and now that we are returning, the multinationals want to displace us for extractive projects." The new blockades come almost a year after three local campesinos were gravely injured in a similar police operation to break up a blockade of seismic exploration workers. UK-based Emerald Energy was purchased by China's Sinochem in 2009. (Contagio Radio, June 21)

SCOTUS lets stand Chevron award against Ecuador

The US Supreme Court on June 6 declined to hear an appeal by the government of Ecuador of a $96 million arbitration settlement awarded to Chevron oil company. The high court let stand a 2015 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, upholding the 2013 award in Chevron's favor issued by The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands. Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, originally brought suit in Ecuador for breaking terms of oil contracts and international agreements. Chevron initiated the arbitration proceeding at The Hague in 2006, seeking to hold Ecuador's government liable for damages from pollution of the rainforest. Chevron claimed Ecuador violated provisions of a 1997 investment treaty by failing to resolve lawsuits in a timely fashion. With interest, the arbitration award stands at approximately $106 million, Chevron said. Other Chevron cases related to matter before The Hague panel remain pending. (AP, Reuters, OilPrice, June 6; Chevron press release, Aug. 31, 2011)

Amazon tribe takes hostages to protest oil spill

Members of the Wampis community of Mayuriaga in the northern Peruvian Amazon seized a grounded military helicopter March 6, holding crew members and eight officials who were on board to press for inclusion in the emergency response plan to last month's devastating oil spill in the region. The eight officials, from state company PetroPerú, were released two days later, after the government agreed to a meeting to discuss indigenous demands, including to improve electricity and other services for the remote area. The Wampis were angered that Supreme Decree 012-2016, instating the emergency response plan, did not actually include their community in the clean-up zone. Some  1,000 barrels spilled when PetroPerú's trans-Andean pipeline rupturted Feb. 3 at Mayuriaga, which lies in Morona municipalty, Datem del Marañón province, Loreto region. Nine days earlier, a second leak further west on the pipeline spilled some 2,000 barrels. The Oleoducto Norperuano is 40 years old, and has been repeatedly cited in recent years by environmental regulator OEFA for poor maintainence. (TeleSur, March 8; RPP, Reuters, March 7)

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