oil spills

Amazonians protest in Lima over oil spills

Peru's Amazonian indigenous organization AIDESEP held a plantón or protest vigil Feb. 18 outside the Lima offices of PetroPerú, to demand action following devastating oil spills. The Jan. 25 spill from a pipeline rupture at Chiriaco, Amazonas region, was followed by another Feb. 3 at Morona, Loreto. Both were caused by ruptures of the Oleoducto Norperuano, and both have contaminated the Río Marañon, a major tributary of the Amazon. Both have left some 10,000 local inhabitants impacted, with waters the communities depend on for drinking and fishing heavily contaminated. AIDESEP leaders charged PetroPerú with a pattern of lax oversight, pointing to a similar spill at Cuninico, Loreto, in June 2014. They demanded the Oleoducto Norperuano be shut down until safety can be assured. Leaders also said the government's response to the disasters has been insufficient, leaving communities without access to fresh water. (Peru21, Feb. 19; Servindi, Feb. 18; La República, RPP, Feb. 15)

Peru: oil spill fouls major Amazon tributary

Crude from an oil pipeline spill in northern Peru has spread due to heavy rainfall and reached the Río Marañon, a major tributary of the Amazon, a local indigenous leader said Feb. 12. The rupture on the North Peru Pipeline (Oleoducto Norperuano) occured Jan. 25 in Imaza dsitrict, Bagua province, Amazonas region, and immediately contaminated Quebrada Inayo, fouling several campesino plots in the canyon. At least some 2,000 barrels escaped. In the days since, it has spread down the Inayo into the Río Chiriaco and finally into the Marañon. Edwin Montenegro, president of the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Northern Amazon of Peru (ORPIAN-P), charged pipeline operator PetroPerú with irresponsibility. "The populations of the communities are affected by nausea, vomiting and illness due to the strong odor," he said. "PetroPerú is more concerned with recovering the lost petroleum than cleaning up the affected zone and bringing assistance to the communities that now see their principal source of water contaminated." Imaza municipal authorities also accused PetroPerú of negligence and playing down the extent of contamination. PetroPerú admits the clean-up effort has been slowed due to the rains, which in turn are spreading the oil. (EFE, Correo, Perú21, Andina, El Comercio, Feb. 12; AIDESEP, Feb. 1)

Nigerian farmers can sue Shell in Netherlands

The Hague Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 18 that Royal Dutch Shell can be sued in a Dutch court for their involvement in oil spills in Nigeria. The ruling stems from a suit brought by four Nigerian farmers that claimed Shell and its Nigerian subsidiaries were responsible for oil leaks leading to their lands being damaged. In a statement explaining their reasoning for their decision, the Court of Appeals said, "It cannot be established in advance that the parent company is not liable for possible negligence of the Nigerian operating company."

SCOTUS turns down Mexican appeal in BP oil spill

The US Supreme Court on Nov. 30 denied (PDF) certiorari in an appeal by Mexican states attempting to sue BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The court let stand a lower court ruling in Veracruz, Mexico, et al. v. BP, P.L.C., et al, finding that the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas and Quintana Roo cannot bring suit against BP because Mexico's federal government owns the affected property. The lawsuit sought damages for the cost of responding to the spill, contamination of the water and shoreline and lost tourism. The Mexican federal government filed a similar suit in 2013, which is currently being heard.

Canada rules for Ecuador villagers in Chevron case

The Supreme Court of Canada on Sept. 4 ruled in favor of Ecuadoran villagers seeking to enforce a multi-billion dollar judgment against the Chevron Corporation. In 2011, the 30,000 villagers secured the $17.2 billion judgment in an Ecuador court for environmental damage to rainforest in the Lago Agrio region. Damages were subsequently reduced by an appeals court to $9.5 billion. The new 7-0 ruling means that the Ecuadorans may pursue the judgment against Chevron in Canada through its subsidiary, Chevron Canada Ltd. Chevron has put up a vigorous legal battle to avoid the fine, arguing that, because the damage was perpetrated by Texaco between 1972 and 1990, before it was bought out by Chevron in 2001, and because Texaco signed an agreement with Ecuador to absolve it of responsibility after a $40 million cleanup effort, Chevron should not be required to pay out for its former competitor.

Colombia overtakes Peru in coca production

Colombia surpassed Peru last year in land under coca cultivation, resuming its number one position for the first time since 2012. The latest annual report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) finds that territory under coca cultivation dropped 14% in Peru, from 49,800 hectares in 2013 to 42,900 in 2014—the smallest area under cultivation since 1998. Colombia meanwhile experienced a 44% jump from 48,000 hectares to 69,000. Peru made gains against coca in the Upper Huallaga Valley, while coca fields expanded in Colombia's Putumayo, Caquetá, Meta and Guaviare regions—all on the frontier lands of plains and rainforest east of the Andes. The findings do not necessarily mean that Colombia is now the world's top cocaine producer, as much of Peru's crop is more mature and higher yielding, having never been subjected to eradication. While Peru eradicates in the Upper Huallaga, it resists US pressure to do so in a second coca cultivation zone, the Apurímac-Ene Valley, for fear of inflaming peasant unrest. (AP, UNODC, July 15; UNODC, July 2)

China allows first pollution suit under new law

China's Qingdao Maritime Court on July 27 ruled that a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips China and China National Offshore Oil for a 2011 oil spill can proceed. The suit was brought by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and it the first case to proceed since the country revised a law (LoC backgrounder) allowing NGOs to directly sue polluters in the public interest. The Chinese government has already fined the companies approximately $258 million for the spill. Other cases are also pending under the law, which became effective on Jan. 1.

BP in $18.7 billion settlement over 2010 oil spill

BP on July 2 reached a settlement that will require the company to pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages to settle all claims regarding the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The agreement, the largest corporate settlement in US history, will add to the $43.8 billion that BP had budgeted for penalties and cleanup costs, bringing the total cost of the spill for BP to $53.8 billion. The settlement with the US Department of Justice and the affected Gulf states specifically requires the company to pay at least $12.8 billion in penalties stipulated under the Clean Water Act and natural resource damages. Another $4.9 billion will go to the affected states. [An additional $1 billion will be paid to local governments.] Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement said, "Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history—the Justice Department has been fully committed to holding BP accountable... The Deepwater trial team has fought aggressively in federal court for an outcome that would achieve this mission, proving along the way that BP's gross negligence resulted in the Deepwater disaster."

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