oil spills

Israel pipeline spill affects Jordan too

Over 80 people were treated for respiratory problems on both sides of the Israel-Jordan border Dec. 4 following a massive oil spill that flooded the highway leading into Eilat. The vast majority of those affected were in Jordan. The leak, near the village of Be'er Ora, was caused by a leak from the Trans-Israel Pipeline, that runs between the Red Sea port of Eilat and the Mediterranean hub of Ashkelon. Be'er Ora sits in the sparsely populated Arava region, home to multiple nature reserves that protect indigenous flora and fauna, including rare acacia trees and over 280 deer. The Environmental Protection Ministry said that it has so far removed 6,000 tons of contaminated soil from the Avrona nature reserve, in an attempt to contain the impact of the disaster. The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company now says the flow of oil has been halted, and that the breach was likely due to a "maintenance failure." The Environment Ministry has dispatched its "Green Police"  to investigate the cause of the incident. Ministry official Guy Same said the spill could take years, to fully clean up. (Times of Israel, Times of Israel, Dec. 6; Times of Israel, ThinkProgress, Dec. 4)

Colombians sue BP over environmental damage

More than 100 Colombian farmers on Oct. 15 filed a lawsuit with the UK high court against British company Equion Energia, previously known as BP Exploration Colombia (BPXC), for alleged negligence when it built the Ocensa oil pipeline. The farmers are seeking around USD $29 million in compensation for environmental damage caused by the pipeline, including severe soil erosion, reduced vegetation coverage and damaged water resources. The farmers' lawyers said that the farmers did not understand the agreements they signed with BPXC and said that they were not provided full and fair compensation for environmental damage caused by the pipeline. The trial is BP's first in Britain for its overseas business.

Mexico: campesinos block Tabasco oil wells

Blockades of Pemex installations in Mexico's southeastern Tabasco state are hurting the country's oil and gas output, according to the CEO of the state-owned industry giant. Emilio Lozoya Austin told Notimex news agency that crude output has been reduced by 30,000 barrels/day as a result of the blockades, launched to protest environmental damage caused by an October explosion at the company's Terra 123 well in Nacajuca. Pemex is losing $3 million/day in revenues, he said. In addition to blocking access to hundreds of oil and gas wells in the rural municipalities of Cárdenas, Huimanguillo, Centla and Cunduacán, protesters have built barricades around the Pemex Pyramid, the company's futuristic local headquarters in Villahermosa. Pemex activities across oil-rich Tabasco have been paralyzed since July 8.

Colombia: protest, rebel attacks depress oil output

Colombian crude production sank to a 20-month low of 935,000 barrels per day in April as guerilla attacks and community protests curbed output. Technicians from parastatal Ecopetrol were barred for over a month by indigenous protesters from repairing the Caño-Limon pipeline after it was damaged in a March 25 guerilla attack. Ecopetrol was forced to declare force majeure on at least 25 delivery contracts due to the stoppage. U'wa indigenous at Toledo municipality, Norte de Santander, agreed to lift their blockade May 1 after the Mines & Energy Ministry agreed to suspend  the nearby Magallanes gas exploration project to evaluate its environmental impacts and to despatch a team to demarcate the boundaries of U'wa territory. But the very next day, the pipeline was blown up again, at Cubará muncipality, Boyacá. The first attack was attributed to the FARC rebels, now in talks with the government. The second one was blamed on the ELN guerillas, which may be hoping to pressure the government to similarly open talks with them. There were 33 pipeline attacks in the first quarter of this year and a total of 259 in 2013. (UDW, May 28; El Tiempo, May 8; InfoSur Hoy, Bloomberg, May 6; EBR, May 5; Reuters, May 2)

US judge blocks enforcement of Chevron judgment

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 4 ruled (PDF) that US courts may not be used to collect $9.51 billion in fines and legal fees from an Ecuadoran court's judgment against Chevron. Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his near 500-page ruling that the punishment inflicted against Chevron was not justified, and that the Ecuadoran court's judgement "was obtained by corrupt means." Kaplan asserted that fraudulent evidence had been introduced in the case, and that lawyers arranged to write the opinion against Chevron themselves by coercing a judge. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president, stated regarding the judgment, "We are confident that any court that respects the rule of law will likewise find the Ecuadorian judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable." Lawyers for Ecuadoreans reported that they will be filing an appeal, saying the decision "constitutes a mockery of the rule of law and will not serve to reduce the risk the oil company faces in the imminent collection of the sentence dictated against it by the Ecuadorean justice system."

ELN bomb Colombia oil pipeline infrastructure

The "Comandante Diego" Front of Colombia's second largest rebel group the ELN detonated explosives Jan. 1 at four crude-oil holding pools along the Caño Limon-Coveñas pipeline at Convención in the Norte de Santander department. A large blaze caused by the attacks created panic among the local population, who were forced to flee their homes, according to local media reports. Authorities are taking measures to prevent further environmental damage after the attacks, as well as reconstruct the damaged holding pools. The ELN  has been coordinating with the FARC in attacks on Colombia’s oil production infrastructure for the past few months, declaring war against multinational oil companies operating in the country last November. (Colombia Reports, Jan. 2; Radio Caracol, Jan. 1)

Peru: oil spill threatens rainforest reserve

Indigenous leaders in Peru's northern Amazonian region of Loreto on Aug. 10 protested that a leak from Pluspetrol's oil operations at the exploitation bloc known as Lot 8X is causing contamination within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, with which the bloc overlaps. Alfonso López Tejada, president of the Cocoma Association for the Development and Conservation of San Pablo de Tipishca (ACODECOSPAT) said that the reserve is "every day more unprotected against oil spills." (RPP, Aug. 11; El Comercio, Lima, Aug. 10)

Ecuador opens Yasuni reserve to oil interests

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa announced Aug. 15 that he is abandoning plans for an ambitious internationally funded conservation program at Yasuni National Park, which called for international donors to compensate his government for keeping oil interests out of the reserve. "The world has failed us," Correa said in a televised address. "I have signed the executive decree for the liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust fund and with this, ended the initiative." Correa said the program had received only $13 million, a fraction of the $3.6 billion goal. He said he would immediately seek approval from the country's Legislative Assembly, where his alliance holds a majority, for opening the Ishpingo Tambocoha Titutini (ITT) bloc within the park to oil companies. Yasuni park is recognized as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

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