The Southern Petroleum Observatory denounces that "an environmental and social disaster" is taking place. The United Nations showed its concern.
“Safe fracking” and “Vaca Muerta will not pollute” were the business and media slogans in 2013, when the Vaca Muerta oil formation (Neuquén) began to be exploited. The technique (called "hydraulic fracturing") was already highly questioned in the world for its environmental impacts. Five years after the YPF-Chevron agreement that started the exploitation, what was alerted by Mapuche communities and socio-environmental organizations was fulfilled: dozens of spills, exploding wells and fires. The province recognizes that there are two spills per day and the United Nations called to stop Vaca Muerta.
On October 19 there was an oil spill that affected between 40 and 80 hectares. It was a YPF and Schlumberger (US multinational) well in Bandurria Sur (eleven kilometers from Añelo) that was 36 hours out of control. The fact was known because it was spread by the workers themselves. The Neuquén Undersecretary of the Environment, Juan de Dios Lucchelli, pointed out that there were "some hectares." YPF acknowledged, ten days after the disaster, that there were 47 hectares. The organizations Greenpeace and FARN (Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) warned through satellite images that it was at least 80 hectares.
The latest YPF spill is just a sample of something bigger: an average of two spills per day occur in the Neuquén basin. Published by the journalist Matías del Pozzi (in the Río Negro newspaper), in the last four years the oil companies admitted 3,368 “environmental incidents”, a euphemism of the companies and the Government for the acts of contamination.
Based on official information from the Neuquén Secretariat of the Environment, it is detailed that in just ten months of 2018 (January to October), 934 pollution events were recorded. In 2017 it was 703, in 2016 it was 868 and in 2015 it was 863.
The Southern Petroleum Observatory (Opsur) is a reference space in the investigation of the actions of oil companies and their impacts. “In Vaca Muerta an environmental and social disaster is taking place. If the exploitation continues, it will be even worse and it does not affect only those who live there, air and water pollution will reach us all, ”said Fernando Cabrera, from Opsur. He recalled that on the YPF-Schlumberger spill they did not give official information for ten days. “These events occur because it is the neighbors, peasants or workers themselves who denounce. Another sign that companies or governments cannot be trusted ”, he highlighted.
A survey by the Link for Energy and Socio-environmental Justice (made up of Opsur and Taller Ecologista) specified the serious events of oil companies in the Rio Negro town of Allen (where the advanced oil industry harms the traditional fruit producers of the region). Between March 2014 and January 2018, there were at least fourteen events that deny “safe fracking”: exploding wells, fires with flames up to 15 meters high, spills in pear production areas, irrigation canals ruptured and 240 thousand liters of toxic water spilled on farms, among others.
The Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén (which has questioned the oil advance for more than twenty years), human rights organizations and the Environmental Lawyers Association filed a criminal complaint framed in the Hazardous Waste Law (for companies) and "abuse of authority and non-compliance with the duties of a public official ”for the environmental authorities of the Province. The Confederation recalled that it had already made five complaints for serious acts of contamination and for the lack of action of government officials. They also blamed the Judiciary for the lack of progress in the cases.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) issued its "Fourth Periodic Report of Argentina" in October. He highlighted the negative impacts of Vaca Muerta and highlighted his concern for its impact on the global climate. "The full exploitation of all the shale gas reserves (of Vaca Muerta) would consume a significant percentage of the global carbon budget to reach the 1.5 degree warming target, stipulated in the Paris Agreement." And he recommended "reconsidering the large-scale exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels through fracking in the Vaca Muerta region" to guarantee compliance with the climate commitments assumed by the Argentine State.
The UN Committee also warned that the negative impacts of fracking were not properly assessed and stated that local communities were not properly consulted.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had issued, two weeks earlier, a report with a warning tone: if the planet's temperature continues to rise and exceeds 1.5 degrees by 2030, there will be “catastrophic impacts” on the lives of people. people and the environment. To reach the target (by 2030), the use of oil must be cut in half and that of gas to a third. The exploitation of Vaca Muerta goes in the opposite direction.
In Vaca Muerta, in addition to YPF and Chevron, the large multinationals Shell, Wintershall, ExxonMobil, Total, PAEG (Bulgheroni, CNNOC, BP), Equinor, Schlumberger, Pluspetrol, Pampa Energía and Mercuria are present.