Eye on the Amazon

Minister Tapia: Thank You for Investigating Petroamazonas – Now Stop Them from Destroying the Rest of Ecuador's Amazon

Petroamazonas workers cleaning up the recent spill in the Aguarico River. Photo credit: Pedro Bermeo/Yasunidos

Your petitions worked! Since last Thursday almost 10,000 of you signed the petition to Ecuador's Minister of the Environment, Lorena Tapia, asking her to condemn a spill that contaminated the Aguarico and Parahuaico rivers where the indigenous Cofan, Secoya, Kichwa and Shuar communities drink, bathe, and fish. It also contaminated the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, an area protected by the Ministry of the Environment that is renowned for its jaguars, giant otters, and pink dolphins.

Last week Minister Tapia announced plans to open an investigation into Petroamazonas' spill. Let's thank the minister and insist that she prohibit Petroamazonas from expanding its operations further into the Amazon.

Petroamazonas has consistently demonstrated an inability to drill responsibly in this region. This is the same company that defied the Ministry of the Environment and the Ecuadorian Constitution by secretly building a road into Yasuni National Park's Block 31, an area that is home to Ecuador's last indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation.

Six days after the July 2nd spill, a special commission from Ecuadorian civil society collective Yasunidos visited the Aguarico site in order to document the devastation. The group noted that while Petroamazonas publicly stated it had spilled 2,000 barrels, a confidential source at Petroamazonas admitted that the spill was actually 15,700 barrels – roughly 660,000 gallons of crude – which would make it one of the largest oil spills since Texaco's tenure. Affected Cofán residents, who have been victims of oil spills since the era of Texaco, stated that the spill could easily have exceeded 10,000 barrels. Petroamazonas advised the community of Cofán Dureno to avoid using water from the river for the next six months to two years. This raises serious questions about the Ministry's assertion that Petroamazonas recovered 100% of the crude.

As part of her investigation into the spill, we encourage Minister Tapia to review how much oil was truly spilled and how much was legitimately recovered. Petroamazonas should be required to continue to provide clean water and food for the affected communities and should fully compensate them for all damages incurred by the spill. To read a full transcript of the open letter Yasunidos wrote to Minister Tapia, Petroamazonas, and Ecuador's Public Advocate after documenting the spill, click here for Spanish, or here for English.

Given these findings, it is crucial that we encourage Minster Tapia to revoke Petroamazonas' licenses in Yasuní (blocks 31 and 43). Tapia should also deny all of Petroamazonas' requests to operate in the south central Amazon (blocks 79, 83, 29, and 28).

We welcome Minister Tapia's investigation into Petroamazonas and urge her to take further steps towards preservation by prohibiting the company from expanding its record of devastation to the most biologically diverse and culturally fragile regions of the Amazon rainforest.

As the special commission from Yasunidos concluded:

We believe, beyond reasonable doubt, that events like this [the Cuyabeno oil spill] confirm our fears about the environmental disaster that the expansion of the petroleum frontier toward Yasuní could bring, and proves that Petroamazonas' “top-notch” technology is far from operating according to its own standards of environmental quality and social responsibility. At the same time, they reinforce our arguments and our conviction in favor of a country that moves clearly toward a post-petroleum era. Transitioning away from a dependence on petroleum is an unquestionable duty to Ecuador's citizenry and its environment, as well as a concrete – and not demagogic – demonstration of sensitivity to the victims of 40 years of dirty oil operations in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon.

What happened in Cuyabeno, never again...
What happened in Cuyabeno, never in Yasuní.

Thank you for continuing to take a stand for the Amazon.

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