Despite pushback from environmental groups, they changed a law to allow hydrocarbon activity in San Matias Bay

SAN CARLOS DE BARILLOCHE.- The Rio Negro Legislature approved in the second round the project that includes changes to Law 3,308, which protects the Bay of San Matias from hydrocarbon activities. Environmental and social organizations condemn the decision as a threat to the ecosystem, while it is unconstitutional because it “violates fundamental principles of jurisprudence.”

Enacted in August 1999, Act 3308 consists of one article and Prohibits “the tasks of prospecting, exploration and extraction of oil and gas, the installation of oil pipelines, gas pipelines or other pipelines for the transportation of hydrocarbons and its derivatives and the construction of terminals for the loading and unloading of ships that transport these products” in the Gulf of San Matias and in the territorial sea of ​​the Rio Negro.

As warned by various environmental organizations, the modification was approved yesterday in Viedma will allow YPF to build an oil pipeline and oil port in Punta Colorada, 35 km from Sierra Grandefrom where the oil produced at Vaca Muerta can be exported.

“These modifications contravene national environmental regulations. The principle of progressivity, enshrined in Article 4 of Law 25,675 General on the Environment, establishes that environmental goals must be achieved gradually, through intermediate and final goals designed in a time schedule that facilitates adaptation corresponding to the activities related to these goals. The sudden nature of the resolution adopted by the Rio Negro legislature is inconsistent with the possibility of complying with this principle“, the Foundation for Environment and Natural Resources (FARN) pointed out.

In dialogue with THE NATION, Fabrizio Di Giacomorepresentative of San Matías Gulf Multisector, added: “The approved project has a very clear objective, which is to be able to extract oil extracted through fracking, an extremely harmful technique for the ecosystem. The idea is to carry it through our bay, one of the last bastions of the ecosystem free of hydrocarbon pollution.

From the multi-sector Bay of San Matías – formed by various residents of the cities of San Antonio Oeste, Las Grutas and the surrounding area – they condemn the irregularities related to the project to change Law 3,308, which was already approved in the first round on August 25. Both sessions had the same vote: 3 abstentions, 41 votes in favor and 1 vote against, by legislator Pablo Barreno.

Map of the protected natural areas of the province of Rio Negro

“We believe that placing an oil pipeline in the territorial sea of ​​the Rio Negro will have catastrophic consequences not only for the local flora and fauna (there are 4 protected natural areas, a national park, this is also the route of the southern right whale, which is a natural landmark), but also for all sources of work that take place in the region, which we estimate to be around 50,000, including tourism, fishing and other activities. This number contrasts with the 100 jobs offered by YPF once the plant is operational,” Di Giacomo said.

Likewise, FARN emphasized that the amendments to law 3,308 oppose the principle of non-retroactivity laid down in 2018 in the Escazú Agreement, the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean. Through a statement, the organization explained that this agreement, approved in 2020 by Law 27,566, declares that there can be no failures in the levels of environmental protection achieved after its sanction, and that decisions on environmental issues cannot be made behind the back of society and without taking into account their due participation.

“This approval shows the lack of planning to deal with the current climate reality where we are increasingly feeling the impact of climate change. Destruction of nature seems to be the only plan provincial and state governments have to get out of an economic crisis,” he said. Santiago Cane, FARN Legal Coordinator.

And I add: “We continue to maintain a model that is completely dependent on fossil fuels when it is necessary and urgent for the world to turn to other energy alternatives that are cleaner and that do not cause the environmental disasters that we see around the world”.

In the same vein, Di Giacomo warned that there is no project involving oil pipelines and oil loading and unloading terminals that has not polluted the world: “The simple fact that ships are entering and leaving an area where southern right whales fly is generating pollution in the waters that will be irreversible.polluting even the area of ​​Península Valdés, in Chubut, which is a world heritage site”.

At the end of yesterday’s session in the legislature, the deputy governor of Rio Negro Alexander PalmierI highlighted the approval of the bill given that “it will allow the province to control the pipelines that cross it and that it will be the destination of hydrocarbon investment for export from the Atlantic coast.”

In turn, the representative of the Multisectoral Golfo San Matías stated that the multinational companies that invest in Vaca Muerta have banned the fracking technique in their countries of origin because it is extremely polluting: “There is a very strong political and economic interest here that justifies any type of project. They talk about controlling oil pipelines, when in fact there is a law that prohibits the existence of oil pipelines with access to the sea. They are talking about an inspection and at the end of 2021 there was an accident in Catriel and the containment measure they had for a leaking oil pipe was to put in a Pelopincho basin”.

Several people who live in San Antonio Oeste, Las Grutas and the surrounding areas went to Viedma yesterday with the intention of participating in the session of the Legislature and later denounced that they were intimidated. “We wanted to participate as citizens, but the security together with the police closed the door on us. They said they had orders not to let anyone in,” Di Giacomo said. After that, the demonstrators stayed in the street.

“Our attitude was absolutely peaceful, there were children, elderly people, students, various associations. Then, overwhelmingly, the people of Uocra arrived with drums, flags and torches. After a while they approached the pavement of the Legislative Assembly and started aggressively running away from us with their flags. Later they wanted to say that there was a procession for Yes and another for No. It wasn’t like that. We have many arguments; they didn’t even know why they were there,” Di Giacomo said.

Finally, the San Matías Gulf Multisector added that they will proceed by legal means, as they believe “firmly in the unconstitutionality of the amendment to Law 3,308”.

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