Environmental defenders present 174,314 signatures in support of Bill 114 banning fracking in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Video: Box representing signatures is handed to Environment Minister Susana Muhamad.

On September 15 a public hearing was held in Bogota on Bill 114, legislation that would prohibit fracking in Colombia.

Senator Esmeralda Hernández, who supports Bill 114, says: “For five hours we listened to communities in territories where ‘fracking’ would be carried out, we explained our reasons why this harmful practice should be banned. We trust in the support of the Congress of the Republic to take care of life above private businesses.”

Infobae reports: “On August 10, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Susana Muhamad, filed the bill that seeks to close the door to ‘fracking’ in Colombia.”

The article highlights: “At the hearing, the head of the environmental portfolio received 174,314 signatures collected by a group of young environmentalists and that according to them, ‘represent the will of civil society with which they request the national government not to allow fracking and reformulate the policy of just energy transition in the country’.”

Photo by Boyaca le Informa.

El Espectador further explains that Bill 114 calls for “the prohibition of implementing fracking as a technique for obtaining resources such as fossil fuels in unconventional deposits; a ban on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons in unconventional fields; the prohibition on the issuance of environmental licenses for the exploitation of hydrocarbons in unconventional deposits; considers a term for concluding the contracts signed prior to this initiative, as well as a term for establishing a just transition policy and the substitution of fossil fuels.”

That article also notes: “Currently in Colombia fracking has a presence with 2 projects: Kalé and Platero in Puerto Wilches. The first is questioned for not having carried out a prior consultation with the community; the second does not have an environmental license.”

On June 28 this year, Peace Brigades International, along with the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS), visited Puerto Wilches to hear from community members opposed to fracking.

We heard from them about threats and attacks against environmental defenders who have been vocal about the need to stop fracking.

Ecopetrol/Scotiabank

On August 31, three weeks after the Petro government was sworn into office, Semana reported: “Ecopetrol said in May that it expected to carry out the first drilling in Kalé in October of this year, while in Platero it would do so in the first quarter of 2023.”

On September 13, Cuarto de Hora reported: “Ecopetrol informed the National Hydrocarbons Agency and the National Environmental Licensing Agency that it will suspend for a period of 90 days the fracking contracts.”

We note that Toronto-based Scotiabank provided to Ecopetrol, the operator of both fracking pilot projects, USD $665 million in 2018, another $666.67 million in 2020, and $1.7 billion in 2021 for a total of $3.0 billion in financing.

Al Jazeera has reported: “Local environmental defenders [opposed to fracking] and a representative of the JEP [the Special Jurisdiction for Peace] told Al Jazeera that they suspected a connection between the paramilitary groups intimidating them and the state-owned Ecopetrol, which is behind the fracking project.”

Sintana Energy

We also note that Toronto-based Sintana Energy Inc. has highlighted that it “holds an undivided 30% non-operated participation interest in a Contract for Exploration and Production for Block VMM-37” where the Platero project would be conducted.

In April 2021, the company stated: “Sintana is encouraged by the ANH’s [National Hydrocarbons Agency] acceptance of ExxonMobil’s bid for Project Platero and its award of a CEPI [Special Research Project Contract/pilot project] contract. The Company’s support for Project Platero is made even though the Government’s process excluded an important segment of the petroleum industry by not allowing smaller companies, such as companies the size of Sintana, to participate in CEPI bids.”

Parex Resources

In March 2019, Reuters reported: “At least five companies are interested in six fracking blocs in Colombia…” In that article, Maria Fernanda Suarez, who was the Colombian Mines and Energy Minister at that time, named Calgary-based Parex Resources as one of the companies interested in the fracking blocs.

Then on July 9, 2022, Infobae reported that the new government’s intention to ban fracking could be an issue “for the four oil multinationals that signed the contracts with the Colombian State, for the commercial and experimental development of crude oil and gas in unconventional fields in Colombia” including “Parex Resources (with one contract)…”

That exploration and production (E&P) contract was signed on September 18, 2014, for Block VMM-9 but has been suspended, according to Parex in this December 2021 report, “due the lack of regulations to explore and exploit unconventional hydrocarbons.”

Canacol Energy

Argus Media has reported that Calgary-based Canacol Energy had also been expected to apply for a fracking pilot project.

Furthermore, Valora Analitik reported in April 2021 that Canacol Energy CEO Charle Gamba saw the approval of the Platero and Kale fracking pilot projects as “positive steps towards realizing the commercial potential of the unconventional shale oil field in Colombia and specifically for the resources prospects that we [Canacol] have through our position in the Middle Magdalena Valley basin.”

Gamba said this despite previously acknowledging there are: “communities who remain heavily opposed to fracking from an environmental perspective.”

We continue to follow this situation.

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