Quantcast
Animals
Scientists have been shocked at the depth and size of the Amazon reef. Greenpeace

Amazon Reef: BP Drilling Plans Dealt Another Blow by Brazilian Regulator

By Joe Sandler Clarke, Unearthed

BP's plans to drill for oil near a huge coral reef in the mouth of Amazon river have been dealt a further blow after a regulator questioned the company's environmental risk assessment.

Ibama, Brazil's federal environmental agency, rejected an environmental study from the British oil giant, further delaying the company's plans to drill in the region.


In a technical note [in Portuguese], the agency criticized the study for a lack of detail on oil spill modeling and the impact drilling could have on local wildlife, and said it required more information before allowing the company to proceed with plans to drill in the region.

The news comes just a few weeks after Unearthed revealed that the British oil giant discussed concerns over environmental licensing in Brazil with a UK government minister.

Department of International Trade (DIT) minister Greg Hands then personally lobbied Brazil's deputy mines and energy minister Paulo Pedrosa on the issue.

When asked to comment on that story, a spokesperson for DIT said, "it is absolutely not true that our ministers lobbied to loosen environmental restrictions in Brazil—the meeting was about improving the environmental licensing process, ensuring a level playing field for both domestic and foreign companies, and in particular helping to speed up the licensing process and make it more transparent, which in turn will protect environmental standards."

Amazon reef

Geologists believe there could be as much as 14 billion barrels of oil in the region, known as the Foz do Amazonas basin.

But a massive coral reef has thrown plans to drill in the area into doubt.

Scientists had long suspected there might be a reef in the region, but its size and depth was not confirmed until five years ago, just as the Brazilian government was putting out drilling licenses to tender.

BP, along with French company Total and Brazil's Petrobras, snapped up five exploration blocks in the mouth of the Amazon in 2013.

In order to drill for oil in the region, companies have to submit environmental impact assessments (EIA) to Ibama.

Ibama said the methodology in BP's EIA for the FZA-M-59 block was "very limited" and the regulator needed more information about what the impact of a oil spill might be in the region. BP holds a 70 percent stake in the block, with the remaining 30 percent owned by Petrobras.

Contacted by Unearthed, BP said that "requests for clarifications" from the regulator may occur several times before a permit is issued.

"As part of the licensing process for drilling a well on the FZA-M-59 block, BP has received the first technical opinion requesting clarifications to the environmental impact study that was presented.

"Under Brazilian legislation and the licensing process managed by IBAMA, requests for clarifications related to the environmental study typically can and do occur several times before the issuance of an environmental permit."

30 percent chance of a spill hitting the reef

Previous assessments filed by the oil majors have caused controversy.

Earlier this year, Unearthed reported that documents filed by Total and BP to Ibama showed that there was a 30 percent chance that a prospective spill from the company's shared blocks could reach the reef.

At the time, a BP spokesperson told us, "Operations on the blocks will only proceed when fully permitted by the Brazilian regulators."

Just a few weeks later, Unearthed found a document showing that BP intended to use a chemical known as Corexit in the event of an oil spill in the region.

The chemical dispersant was used extensively during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 and three years later, scientists found that the chemical had a negative impact on coral larvae in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP still intends to drill in the region in 2018.

British government lobbying

The news comes as BP finds itself embroiled in a political controversy in Brazil.

We previously reported that a diplomatic telegram from the British government, obtained by Unearthed, showed that, at a "private breakfast" in Rio de Janeiro, BP—together with Shell and Premier Oil—relayed their concerns "around taxation and environmental licensing" to Greg Hands, who then raised them "directly" with Brazilian official Pedrosa.

Now a group of politicians in Brazil are asking prosecutors to investigate whether there may have been any breach of Brazilian law in the award of offshore oil blocks to international companies, including BP.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Unearthed.


Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Women fetching water in India. Pixabay

India Suffers 'Worst Water Crisis in Its History'

India is facing its "worst-ever" water crisis, according to a report from a government think tank issued last week.

Around 200,000 Indians die each year due to lack of water access, the report finds, and demand will be twice as much as supply by 2030.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
daryl_mitchell / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Urban Gardening 101: How to Deal With Contaminated Soil

By Brian Barth

Urban soils are particularly prone to contamination. Fifty years ago, your yard could have belonged to a farmer, who, perhaps not knowing any better, disposed of old bottles of anti-freeze or contaminated diesel in a hole out behind the tractor garage. Or perhaps the remains of a fallen down outbuilding, long ago coated in lead-based paint, was buried on your property buy a lazy contractor when your subdivision was built.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
High-tide flooding in Miami, FL, a state that could lose more than 10 percent of its residential properties to chronic flooding by 2100. B137 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Sea Level Rise Could Put 2.4 MIllion U.S. Coastal Homes at Risk

More than 300,000 U.S. coastal homes could be uninhabitable due to sea level rise by 2045 if no meaningful action is taken to combat climate change, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) study published Monday found.

The study, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods and the Implications for U.S. Coastal Real Estate, set out to calculate how many coastal properties in the lower 48 states would suffer from "chronic inundation," non-storm flooding that occurs 26 times a year or more, under different climate change scenarios.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate

NASA Climate Scientist Warned Us About Warming 30 Years Ago

Climate science marks a troubling anniversary this week: in June of 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen told Congress that global warming had already begun to affect the world and would only get worse.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Pixabay

4 Ways You Can Make a Difference on Climate

By Jaime Nack

"Where do I start?"

Whatever the forum, whatever the audience, it's always the first question I hear when I talk to people about sustainability and personal impact.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Minnesota Senate Building solar array ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 10. MN Administration / CC BY 2.0

U.S. Sees Steady Solar Growth Despite Trump, But China Slashes Subsidies

By Andy Rowell

Donald Trump can't stop the sun from shining. Despite the climate denier's pro-fossil fuel agenda, and despite his tariffs on imported solar panels, the U.S. still installed more solar than any other source of energy in the first quarter of the year.

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. climbed 13 percent in the first quarter, according to the trade body, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
frankieleon / CC BY 2.0

How a Minor Change to EPA Rules Could Slash Environmental Protection

By Joseph Aldy

Since the Reagan administration, federal agencies have been required to produce cost-benefit analyses of their major regulations. These assessments are designed to ensure that regulators are pursuing actions that make society better off.

In my experience working on the White House economic team in the Clinton and Obama administrations, I found cost-benefit analysis provides a solid foundation for understanding the impacts of regulatory proposals. It also generates thoughtful discussion of ways to design rules to maximize net benefits to the public.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
E. Kahl / National Park Service

America’s Most Obscure Desert Is in Alaska

By Michael Engelhard

Time slipping, a tabula rasa. Footprints erased, slopes advanced, ripples unsculpted. A whole world recast by whims of weather. Besides snowfields and foreshores, few landscapes appear so clean-cut and subtle. Here, emptiness is the main attraction.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!