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A totora root soaked in oil after a spill in bloc 8X. Photo: Acodecospat (source)
Argentinian multinational Pluspetrol tried to have its 9-million-dollar fine for not compensating environmental damage caused by its activities annulled. This request was dismissed by the court of first instance in early June, and the firm unsurprisingly announced its intention to lodge an appeal. Pluspetrol has been extracting oil from bloc 8, in the center of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve – jewel of the Peruvian Rainforest and internationally recognized as a RAMSAR site – for nearly 20 years. Many autochthonous communities of the kukama kukamiria ethnic group live there.
Pluspetrol Norte S.A (Pluspetrol), its Peruvian subsidiary, has been extracting oil from the Pacaya Samiria National Park since 1996, thanks to a concession on bloc 8. Granted authorization by the government for a 30-year period, its operations will continue until 2024. The first hydrocarbons extraction activities have however begun some 40 years ago, in 1971, with the American firm Occidental Petroluem (“Oxy”).
Today, Pluspetrol takes legal action to obtain the annulment of a 9-million-dollar fine imposed in 2014 by the OEFA, the Peruvian environmental authority. According to the “PAC” contract between the firm and the Peruvian State, signed in 2006, Pluspetrol promised to proceed with contaminated soils and water springs environmental remediation on 27 sites, before May 2009. After in situ supervision, authorities observed that said promise had not been fulfilled, and sentenced the firm to a heavy fine.
Autochthonous communities press charges against Pluspetrol
Social mobilization of kukama autochthonous communities, from Loreto, in 2014. Photo: Puinamudt (source)
Oil-related activities caused serious and irreversible damage to the environment in this area. In December 2012, after ACODECOSPAT autochthonous organization pressed charges for environmental contamination, the then prosecutor, together with representatives of several Peruvian environmental institutions, visited bloc 8X for the first time. This mission aimed to verify whether the alleged damage had indeed occurred. In order to do so, soil, sediments and water samples were sampled, to look for traces of hydrocarbons contamination. ACODECOSPAT, an organization defending the rights and interests of autochthonous communities of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, had indeed denounced Pluspetrol before criminal courts after numerous oil spills, and other wrong habits of the firm.
Oil spill in bloc 8, in July 2013. Photo: Puinamudt (source)
The state of environmental emergency declared in 2014
Early 2014, a full governmental assessment had been ordered and carried out by the Peruvian government, finding that the minimum environmental standards had not been met by the firm. Large amounts of oil-derived harmful substances (TPH, oil, fat) and even dangerous heavy metals (arsenic, lead, mercury, etc.) had been detected.
In May 2014, the area of the Reserve where some of the oil plants are, was declared to be in a state of environmental emergency. It is also where 17 autochthonous communities live.
The Peruvian Ministry for the Environment indicated “it has been observed that the assessed area presents significant risks for the population and the environment’s life and health, which constitutes an important environmental damage”.
Today, the judiciary considered that, for not respecting its obligations within the agreed period, the firm was responsible and had to pay the 9-million-dollar fine. Pluspetrol refuses to do so and announced its intention to lodge an appeal against the legal decision.
Alfonso López’ testimony (president of ACODECOSPAT). Video: Alianza Arkana
© Ambiente Indigena - translated by Mahault Thillaye / Original article
Date : 15/06/2015