Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oil Exploitation in the Yasuni National Park, Ecuador: Hard Lessons

President Correa is coming under fire from many people by deciding to have foreign companies come in to drill for oil in the Yasuni National Park.  Much of the concern over this is amplified by the history of drilling for oil in the country by Texaco (which merged with Chevron in 2001), which did not use generally accepted practices that might have prevented the vast majority of damage that was done. Rather than following established procedure for control and disposal of wastes, the company often merely dumped them into an unprotected hole in the ground – which allowed the chemicals to seep into the local water table – or even pumped them directly into nearby rivers.
Standard practices that have been well established for decades allow for the extraction of oil while preventing the resulting waste products from leaking into the surrounding environment, and in many countries regulations are in place that require oil companies to use acceptable practices to prevent any negative impacts like those seen in Ecuador. Unfortunately, these requirements were not enforced in the past, and still even the state owned oil company Petroamazonas admits a spill occurs about every week (2013).  The country has also been unable to hold Chevron accountable for their brand’s past activities; the suit had been settled in Ecuador but is now in court here in the US.
It seems that, while terrible situations have been created in the past, it is not very difficult to extract the oil with minimal impact on the local environment.  However, to ensure that similar things don’t happen in the future people involved need to take precautions to ensure they don’t repeat or past mistakes.  Several things they need to do are: closely monitor the activities of the gas companies, make certain that the companies legally accept responsibility for any negative effects of their activities, and ensure support for any necessary corrective action by the foreign governments where the oil companies are based.
If these procedures had been followed before, the majority of problems could have been avoided or at least dealt with quickly once discovered.  And if they are now adopted, they may be used to allow further oil exploration without the vast majority of negative effects that Ecuador has experienced in the past.
--Stephen Anderson

No comments:

Post a Comment