Dozens of New Oil Spills Devastate Northern Peruvian Amazon

Report Reveals New Pluspetrol Spills As Government Green-Lights New Oil Development

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Iquitos, Peru – Independent monitoring of Oil Blocks 1-AB and 8 in the Northern Peruvian Amazon has revealed devastating ongoing impacts of oil drilling, according to a recent report by the Federation of Indigenous Communities of the Corrientes River (FECONACO). A team of monitors from the indigenous Achuar and Urarina communities on the Corrientes River documented 18 major crude oil spills in 2010 and over 90 spills over the last three years, directly affecting dozens of miles of rivers and streams and vast stretches of forest. Blocks 1-AB and 8 are currently operated by Argentine company Pluspetrol. Block 1-AB was operated by Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) from 1971 to 2000 and is the subject of ongoing litigation by communities alleging the company severely contaminated the environment for nearly 30 years.

"A week after the landmark ruling against Chevron in Ecuador for $9bn of damage from operations in the 1970's and 80's, this new report highlights the ongoing devastation caused by the oil industry on the fragile Amazon ecosystem and the people that live there," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director at Amazon Watch.

The report is the product of independent community monitoring of oil operations by the Federation of Indigenous Communities of the Corrientes River (FECONACO), one of four river basins affected by oil blocks 1-AB and 8 which together account for 40% of Peru's crude production. An independent study by consultancy E-Tech International also identified serious failures in the clean-up of contaminated sites left by Oxy when they sold Block 1-AB to Pluspetrol over a decade ago. The community monitors also identified over 90 legacy contamination sites left by Oxy's operations that are not within the clean-up plan agreed upon with Pluspetrol as part of the Block's sale.

Government health studies have found dangerously elevated levels of heavy metals lead and cadmium in the blood of the Achuar people from the Corrientes. Over 98% of children have unsafe levels of cadmium, and over 66% have lead blood poisoning.

Despite ongoing concerns seven new companies, including Canadian Talisman Energy and Petrolifera, and US companies ConocoPhillips and Hunt Oil, have started exploration and pipeline construction in the Corrientes River Basin alone. Nearly 70% of the Peruvian Amazon is concessioned to oil and gas drilling and exploration. Last year Peru signed 14 new contracts for oil exploration, 11 additional contracts are in negotiation, and bidding for new contracts is planned for May this year.

"The devastating impacts of modern-day oil drilling in Northern Peru demonstrate the inability of oil companies to operate in the Amazon without destroying this fragile ecosystem or the indigenous communities that live there," said Gregor MacLennan, Amazon Watch Peru Program Coordinator. "The report also highlights the failure of regulation of the hydrocarbon industry in Peru and raises serious concerns about Peru's aggressive development strategy to open the Amazon to oil drilling."

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