The Pacific Rubiales oil field and environmental liabilities

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: “The Campo Rubiales oil complex extends over approximately 55,000 hectares and reached its greatest visibility under the administration of Pacific Rubiales, currently Frontera Energy.” Photo by Álvaro Avendaño.

The environmental news platform Mongabay reports: “[A] bill that creates and legally defines environmental liabilities – that is, the long-term and abandoned environmental damage left by mining, extractive or landfill projects, among others – is advancing for the first time with good options for progress in the Colombian legislature.”

The article explains: “The main objective of this project is to define environmental liabilities before the law, an aspect in which there is a legal vacuum today.”

It further notes that there is a difference between environmental liabilities and the environmental impacts of a project:

– “Environmental liabilities are all those damages that are poorly managed and that are identified after the end of the operation of mining, oil, landfill projects, among others, that pollute and affect the environment.”

– “[Environmental impacts] are projected before the execution of an extractive or industrial intervention to the environment and are managed and are supposed to be resolved through environmental management plans.”

It is believed that there are at least 1,843 environmental liabilities in Colombia. Twenty-four per cent of those liabilities are in the hydrocarbon sector.

The article includes the photo above of Campo Rubiales.

The Campo Rubiales oil field, in Puerto Gaitán, Meta, was operated by the Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy in association with Ecopetrol since 2006. Rutas del Conflicto has reported: “A notice at the entrance to the Rubiales-Piriri and Quifa oil complex noted that visitors were entering a piece of Canada in Colombia.”

This report co-authored by the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) notes: “On July 1, 2016, operations at the Rubiales concession were turned over in their entirety to the majority state-owned company Ecopetrol.”

The report highlights: “Due to the drop in oil prices, among other factors, Pacific has entered into insolvency proceedings in Canada to avoid bankruptcy. This transition, combined with a lack of state initiatives, has raised deep concerns regarding accountability and possible reparations for social and environmental liabilities incurred over the previous years.”

Criminalization of social protests

That report also documented violations of labour rights and union rights; the distortion of the prior consultation process and the social disarticulation of Indigenous Peoples; environmental impacts and land issues; and criminalization, an imbalanced justice system, and abuses at the hands of security providers.

The report states: “An increase in social, labor, environmental, and trade union conflicts between oil companies, local communities, and industry employees in Puerto Gaitan has coincided with a phenomenon in which individuals involved in social protest have increasingly become the subjects of criminal proceedings. Scenarios were documented in which illegal persecution and an excessive use of force have been employed by state and private agents, especially targeting trade union leaders, human rights defenders, and others who organize protests in response to labor conditions, environmental mismanagement, contracting models, and the social investment policies implemented by private companies.”

And the report cautions: “This is a worrying situation, especially when one takes into consideration the existence of Cooperation Agreements between the companies (Ecopetrol and Pacific) and the Colombian Prosecutor General’s Office, the National Police or diverse units within the armed forces.”

Webinar, October 11

This webinar will feature social leaders Ferney Salcedo, Yulivel Leal, Ninfa Cruz (COSPACC) and Reymundo Vásquez (CSPP).

In August 2015, Pacific Rubiales changed its name to Pacific Exploration and Production and then again in June 2017 to Frontera Energy.

By November 2018, Frontera had signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence after the community of San Luis de Palenque, Casanare organized protests against the impacts of the company’s Cubiro Block operations.

Days after those agreements were signed, a pre-dawn military operation arrested eight social leaders in San Luis de Palenque.

That lead UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst to express his concern about “the apparent connection between Frontera Energy, the army’s 16th brigade and the Attorney General’s Support Office in this criminalization.”

To register for this upcoming PBI-organized webinar that will discuss this criminalization, please click here.

The full Mongabay article can be read at Un proyecto de ley busca saldar la deuda que tiene Colombia con los pasivos ambientales.

Categories: News Updates

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