oil spills

Colombia: protests over 'catastrophic' oil spill

A state of emergency has been declared in Barrancabermeja, the oil hub on Colombia's Río Magdalena, following a rupture on a pipeline delivering crude to the city's refinery from wells in the municipality's rural area. The March 2 spill at the Lizama 158 well, run by parastatal Ecopetrol, contaminated local waterways that flow into the Magdalena, and which local campesino communities depend on. The affected area includes habitat for jaguars (listed as "near threatened" by the International Union for the Conservation of Natuire) and manatees ("vulnerable"). March 26 saw a protest outside the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in Bogotá, demanding acountability in the disaster. Óscar Sampayo, Barrancabermeja organizer for the Fracking-Free Colombia Alliance, called it a "catastrophe of unequaled magnitude" in a long history of oil spills in the area, and said the impacts could last 30 years. The Fiscalía General, Colombia's attorney general, has opened an investigation to determine if there is criminal liability in the spill.

Peru: 'Station 6' case against indigenous leaders

Legal proceedings continue in Bagua, a town on the edge of the rainforest in Peru's Amazonas region, against 25 Awajún and Wampis indigenous activists over deadly violence at a pumping station for the North Peru Oilduct in June 2009. Station 6 had at that time been under occupation by indigenous activists opposed to expansion of oil operations into their Amazonian homelands. Violence broke out at the occupied pumping station on June 5, 2009, when word reached the activists there of that morning's Bagua massacre, precipitated by National Police attacking an indigenous roadblock outside the town. Ten agents of DINOES, the National Police elite anti-riot force, were slain in the clash at Station 6. Prominent indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, already cleared of charges connected to the violence at Bagua, is now among those being tried for the bloodshed at Station 6. The trial at the Bagua Penal Chamber opened Jan. 9, with the defendants facing possible life terms for kidnapping, armed rebellion, riot and other charges. (La República, Ideele Radio, Lima, Jan. 9)

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)

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