Foz do Amazonas: government must demand a broader study – 05/24/2023 – Environment
The government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) will require undertakings considered to be of high complexity, such as oil exploration at the mouth of the Amazon, a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment —and must commit to the study so that Petrobras can insist on the drilling plan.
By denying Petrobras’ request about the mouth of the Amazon, Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) stated that the safety plans presented by the company were insufficient to guarantee the safety of the project and that an AAAS was not presented. (Environmental Assessment of Sedimentary Area).
“The government took the decision that very high impact projects will have to be seen looking either at the hydrographic basin or at the scope of the undertaking based on the strategic environmental assessment”, said the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, in a hearing in Congress this Wednesday (24).
The AAAS is the type of strategic environmental assessment used for cases like this and can demonstrate the possible wide regional impacts of the activity, not restricted just to the area in question —thus, in the entire basin of the mouth of the Amazon and not just in block 59, that would be perforated.
As shown to SheetIbama calculated that, according to the environmental studies presented by Petrobras, if there was an oil leak at sea, the rescue team would take 43 hours to reach the location —while the residue, just ten hours to reach international waters.
The institute’s refusal, however, generated a clash between government areas and complaints from politicians in Amapá —the state where the oil basin is located— and the energy sector.
The idea now, according to government officials told the Sheetis that this comprehensive environmental assessment be carried out so that the effects of the Petrobras project are clear.
Also at a hearing in Congress this Wednesday, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Alexandre Silveira, stated that there are no insurmountable issues in Ibama’s opinion.
“It will only become insurmountable if the AAAS is discussed. It will be inconsistent and absurd with Brazilians who need economic development with social fruits and environmental balance. We can even argue that no other block should go to auction before the AAAS. But for that that has already been auctioned, if we restart this licensing, we will be breaking contracts”, he said.
The portfolio commanded by Silveira asked Petrobras to insist on the exploration project in the area. Ibama technicians say that the new study can be attached to a challenge to the veto or even support new exploration requests to the agency.
However, according to government officials, this environmental analysis could take months or even more than two years. Therefore, a quick solution to the impasse between ministers Alexandre Silveira (Mines and Energy) and Marina Silva (Environment) is not expected.
This Tuesday (23), Minister Rui Costa (Casa Civil) met with Silveira, Marina, the president of Ibama, Rodrigo Agostinho, and the president of Petrobras, Jean Paul Prates.
After the meeting, Marina defended the need for an environmental assessment.
“As provided for in the ordinance, which established the strategic environmental assessment, for new areas of oil exploration or for projects of very high complexity, the strategic environmental assessment must be carried out, as recommended by Ibama, in the report it issued, for all the lots that were presented there for the equatorial margin, exactly as provided for in the law”, said the Minister of the Environment.
The AAAS was instituted in a 2012 interministerial decree in which it was expected that the study would be submitted for environmental licensing. The rule, however, was almost never followed.
Still according to the ordinance, the Ministry of Mines and Energy is carrying out this study together with the Ministry of the Environment.
This Wednesday morning (24th), Petrobras confirmed that it will insist on exploring the site and promised new measures to protect the fauna, but reiterated, in a note, that the AAAS is the responsibility of the ministries, not it.
“The company argues that it has met, in addition to the requirements set forth in the legislation referring to the bidding process for block FZA-M-059, and that it has fulfilled all the technical requirements demanded by Ibama for the project”, stated the company.
Marina pointed out that, since 2012, there has been a requirement for this study. “In regions where there is already a consolidated process, these are procedures from the past”, she said.
According to members of the government, if it had been applied earlier, the AAAS should have been presented for the licensing of the Belo Monte plant —the trigger for Marina’s departure from the Lula government in 2008— or the oil and gas auction in the Abrolhos National Park .
Last week, after Ibama’s veto, Petrobras declared that it remains committed to the Brazilian equatorial margin project, “recognizing the importance of new frontiers to ensure the country’s energy security and the necessary resources for a fair and sustainable energy transition” .
In the company’s strategic plan for the period from 2023 to 2027, almost US$ 3 billion (about R$ 17 billion) are foreseen for the exploration of the equatorial margin, where it has already acquired other blocks.
The government’s environmental wing claims that Ibama’s decision was technical – made by ten members of the body, unanimously.
This Tuesday, Agostinho ruled out a political agreement on the issue of oil exploration at the mouth of the Amazon, an issue that has been dividing the government, putting the environmental wing on one side and the so-called development wing and parliamentarians from the North region on the other.
“I issue 3,000 licenses a year, I cannot stay in each license calling all parties, looking for a composition, because there is no composition [política] in decisions that are technical. Many times we will make decisions that will please a group of people, displease another group of people”, said the president of the body.
The Minister of the Civil House was scheduled to help Lula to mediate the debate.
This Monday (22), the president did not rule out the possibility of exploration in the region.
“If exploring this oil is a problem for the Amazon, it will certainly not be explored, but I think it is difficult, because it is 530 kilometers away from the Amazon”, stated Lula, in Japan, before leaving for Brazil.
The Planeta em Transe project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.