oil spills

Control of oil behind Mexico-Spain tensions

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Feb. 9 called for a "pause" in relations with Spain, in a speech that explicitly invoked the legacy of colonialism going back to the Conquest. But the speech was clearly aimed principally at Spanish oil company Repsol, which had been favored during the presidential term of Felipe Calderón. Specifically, López Obrador questioned the granting of gas contracts in the Burgos Basin, in Mexico's northeast. He charged that Repsol operated the fields less productively than the state company Pemex had. "In the end, less gas was extracted than Pemex extracted" before the contracts, he charged.

Pipeline rupture in Ecuador's Amazon fouls river

Ecuador's trans-Andean Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP) ruptured amid heavy rains Jan. 28, spilling oil into a sensitive area of Napo province and contaminating several rivers draining into the Amazon Basin, including the Napo, Piedra Fina, Quijos and, most seriously, the Coca. The contamination also penetrated Cayambe-Coca National Park. Pipeline operator OCP Ecuador didn't announce that it had stopped pumping through the stricken line until the following day, and at first denied that any waterways had been contaminated. This was repudiated in a statement from the Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONFENIAE), which cited reports from impacted Kichwa communities. 

Peru demands Repsol pay in coastal oil spill

Peru's authorities declared an environmental emergency on Jan. 20 after announcing that 21 beaches around the Lima area were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Spanish multinational Repsol, calling it the "worst ecological disaster" in the city's history. The Environmental Evaluation & Control Organism (OEFA) estimated some 6,000 barrels of crude had spilled—dramatically above the mere seven gallons that Repsol had initially reported to authorities when the disaster occurred five days earlier. Some 1,740,000 square meters of coastline and 1,1187,000 square meters of sea have been covered in sludge that has blackened beaches and killed marine life. Peru is demanding compensation from Repsol, accusing the company of trying to cover up the scale of the disaster and not having a contingency plan in place.

Looming oil spill off Yemen coast portends disaster

A prospective massive spill from an abandoned oil tanker in the Red Sea could lead to catastrophic public health effects in war-torn Yemen and neighboring countries unless urgent action is taken, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The FSO Safer is one of the world's largest tankers and is anchored five nautical miles (approximately nine kilometers) off the coast about 60 kilometers north of the port of Hodeidah, a key lifeline for aid supplies to much of Yemen's population. It holds 1.1 million barrels of oil—more than four times the amount spilled in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez. Abandoned since 2015 due to the conflict in Yemen, the dilapidated vessel is increasingly likely to leak oil due to deterioration of its hull, or to catch fire through the build-up of volatile gases or through a direct attack.

Peru: indigenous protesters shut down pipeline

On the sixth day of a declared civil strike (paro) in Peru's Amazon rainforest, hundreds of indigenous protesters armed with spears seized oil installations Oct. 6, effectively shutting down the NorPeruano Pipeline. Station 5 on the pipeline, as well as oil exploitation blocs 192, 95 and 8, all in Loreto region, are under occupation. State company PetroPerú admitted that personnel have been evacuated from the pumping station, in Manseriche district, and that the seizure of the installation has "paralyzed the operations" of the pipeline. Awajún apu (traditional leader) James Pérez, speaking for the Indigenous Association for the Development & Conservation of the Bajo Yurimaguas, said the paro will continue until the central government responds to protesters' demands.

UK court approves Nigerian suit against Shell Oil

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on Feb. 12 allowed a case filed by 42,335 Nigerian claimants against Shell Oil and a Nigerian subsidiary to proceed in the UK courts. The claimants first sued Shell and its subsidiary in 2015 over leaks from pipelines in the Niger Delta that resulted in the destruction of farmland, the death of fish stocks, and poisoned drinking water. They argued that the oil spills occurred due to the negligence of the subsidiary company responsible for operating the pipelines. They charged that Shell's parent company owed them a "common law duty of care," since it exercised significant control over the operations of the Nigerian subsidiary.

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

Native American activist Winona LaDuke and a small group of opponents of the planned Line 3 oil pipeline project braved frigid winds Dec. 15 to demonstrate outside the Enbridge Energy office in Park Rapids, Minn. LaDuke and her self-proclaimed "water protectors" carried signs reading "Mother Earth Revolution," "We are here for the future," and "Protect climate, water, treaties." The planned pipeline would bring more shale oil from northern Canada to US markets. Local Ojibwe bands in Minnesota have brought legal challenge against the pipeline, asserting that the potential for oil spills from the line poses a risk to their treaty-guaranteed hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

Hundreds of oil spills in Peru rainforest since 2000

Peru's National Coordinator for Human Rights (CNDDHH) and Oxfam Peru have issued a report finding that there have been hundreds of oil spills linked to the NorPeruano Pipeline over the past 20 years. Entitled  "La Sombra del Petróleo" ("The Shadow of Oil"), the report counted 474 oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon between 2000 and 2019, impacting at least 41 indigenous communities.  These spills occurred along the NorPeruano Pipeline and in several associated oil blocs. The report also determined that 65% of these spills were caused by the corrosion of the pipeline and operational failures. "After every spill, it was said that the responsibility was with the indigenous communities, but there was no evidence that this was the case," said Miguel Lévano, coordinator of a CNDDHH subcommittee on oil spills. "It did not make sense, since they are the people being affected."

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