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Petrobras - The Brazilian National Oil Company
1. Brief History of Oil Exploration in Block 31
2. References – Sources    

Listed by number according to History timeline above

3. References – Sources    

Organized by groups, e.g. Maps, Government Documents, etc.

1. Brief History of Oil in Block 31
Listed in reverse chronological order

October 2007
October 17, 2007 Amidst fresh rumors that the Environment Ministry was about to issue Petrobras a new environmental license, a group of 30 Waorani protested in Quito (35).

October 18, 2007 Despite the protest by the Waorani, the very next day, Environment Minister Anita Alban signed the new environmental license for Petrobras (36).

The new license triggered widespread opposition (37) in Ecuador. The Waorani returned to Quito and marched through the streets in protest (38). Formal complaints, known as Recursos de Revision, were filed at both the Environment (39) and Energy (40) Ministries, the latter filed by the Waorani themselves. CONAIE filed a lawsuit (41) known as an Amaparo Consitutionales and NAWE filed a lawsuit (42) too.

June 2007. On June 20, the Energy Ministry’s environmental arm, known as DINAPA, finalized an important technical report (33). It stated that the technical points raised by the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní were legitimate and Petrobras needs to go back and re-analyze their key points about the processing facility and drilling platforms. Moreover, DINAPA presented new analysis that demonstrated that the processing facility would lead to significant erosion towards the vitally important Tiputini River. This critical report had the power to profoundly alter and delay the project. However, due to political pressures, this report was never officially delivered to President Correa or to the Environment Ministry. Its existence was made public in press reports in El Comercio and El Universo (34) six months after the report was written.

April 2007. In response to a startling press report (30) that the Environment Ministry would grant Petrobras a new environmental license within 20 days, Save America’s Forests, Finding Species, and Environmental Defense issued a new opposition letter (31) to the Ministry, stressing that the five points of the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní still had not been resolved.

On April 20 came an unexpected letter. Energy Minister Alberto Acosta wrote (32) to Save America’s Forests and Environmental Defense informing them that the Energy Ministry was investigating their claims that the Petrobras project was environmentally destructive and should not be granted the environmental license. Shortly after writing this letter, Acosta left the Correa Administration, and later became the head of the Constitutional Assembly in September 2007.

March 2007. In an effort led by Bruce Rich of Environmental Defense, an Investors Brief (28) was prepared detailing how the Petrobras project violated accepted international standards of best practice. An accompanying letter signed by over 40 organizations (29) was delivered to new President Rafael Correa. The Investors Brief was sent to banks potentially involved with the financing of the project..

January 2007. Disappointed with the Environment Ministry’s letter in response to the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní letter, Save America’s Forests along with Finding Species issued a letter rebutting the Environment Ministry’s claims (27). This letter strengthened the central arguments of the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní using the technical analysis of environmental engineer Bill Powers.

November 2006. The Environment Ministry sent all the letters it received (in September 2006) to Petrobras for their response. In late November, the Ministry issued a letter (26) to the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní basically siding with Petrobras and dismissed all five of the scientists’ central claims..

September 2006. Petrobras submitted its long-awaited revised EIA (19), which, as promised, called for helicopters to access the drilling platforms instead of an access road into Yasuní National Park (Petrobras EIA Map) (20).

During the public comment period that same month, a key letter from the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní (21) was submitted to the government. This letter, although praising the government for prohibiting access road construction, warned of 5 major problems (22) with the new EIA. The scientists warned that construction and operation of the processing facility would devastate the sensitive ecosystem around the Tiputini River, a river renowned for being a refuge for Threatened and Endangered species such as the Giant River Otter, the Amazon Manatee, and the Pink River Dolphin. The scientists also warned that the Waorani representative organization, ONHAE (now referred to as NAWE) was never consulted about the project, a violation of international law (24). The scientists also argued for the removal of the access road Petrobras built up to the border of the park and more analysis of Extended Reach Drilling, a technique that would eliminate the need for one of the drilling platforms.

Two other important letters were also submitted to the Ecuadorian government that month warning of the dangers of the new EIA, one letter from a coalition of US NGOs (25) and another from the Ecuadorian NGO Accion Ecologica.

April 2006. Petrobras revealed in an email to Save America’s Forests that they abandoned their original plans to build the access road into Yasuní National Park and revealed the news in a press release (18). They also said that for the previous several months they had been developing a new design utilizing helicopters to access the drilling platforms, a so-called roadless, “off-shore” design. .

December 2005. A group of the world’s top scientists, including Jane Goodall, Stuart Pimm, and Peter Raven, sent a letter (17) (En Espanól) to the Ecuadorian government which supported the Waorani’s call for a 10-year moratorium on any new oil development in Yasuní National Park or Waorani Territory.

July 2005. On July 7, the new Environment Minister Ana Alban issued a letter to Petrobras (13) informing them that they were not authorized to build the road into the park   (14) and instead had to go back to the drawing boards and come up with a roadless entry design. In her letter, the Minister cited the international opposition as one of the key factors behind the decision.

But the excitement of July didn’t stop there. A week later, on July 12, over 150 Waorani marched through the streets of Quito (15) to protest the Petrobras project. The Waorani delivered a letter to the government (16) calling for a 10-year moratorium on new oil projects on their territory. .

May - June 2005. Petrobras began cutting down trees (11) and building the road (12) in May. By the end of June, the new road had been partially constructed from its starting point on the Napo River to the northern limit of Yasuní National Park, the Tiputini River, and Petrobras was seeking its final approval to extend the road into park.

April 2005. At the end of April, the people of Ecuador took to the streets and forced Lucio Gutierrez out of the Presidency. The protests were triggered by his second dismissal of the Supreme Court in five months, but his downfall was facilitated by his lost support from the social movements that brought him to power.

The previous scientist letters were redelivered to Lucio’s successor, the newly installed President Alfredo Palacio and his new Environment Minister, Ana Alban.

January and February 2005. The world’s largest scientific organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, issued a resolution  (7) and the leading tropical scientists of the Smithsonian Institution issued a letter (8) in opposition to Petrobras’ proposed access road construction.

Moreover, a group of seven of the world’s top scientists, including heavyweights such as Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson, cosigned a letter  (9) initiated by Save America’s Forests Director Carl Ross and Dr. Finer (who became Save America’s Forests Staff Ecologist in 2004) calling on the Ecuadorian government to prohibit construction by Petrobras of an access road into Yasuní National Park. All three letters were presented in meetings with high level staff at the Ecuadorian and Brazilian embassies by signers of the letters, for delivery to the presidents of Ecuador and Brazil, as well as to the President of Petrobras. The Jane Goodall/E.O. Wilson letter led to a news article in the New York Times (10), generating more news articles in Ecuador and international publicity on oil development in Yasuní..

October - November 2004. Over 30 leading rainforest scientists, later dubbed the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní, met at a conference co-organized by Dr. Matthew Finer and Margot Bass of Finding Species in the cloud forests of Mindo, Ecuador for a summit on this crisis facing Yasuní. The scientists gave two full days of presentations concerning Yasuní’s biodiversity and primary threats. By the end of November, this information was compiled into a Technical Report  (4) and delivered to the Ecuadorian government. The report concluded (5) that Yasuní is arguably the most biodiverse spot on the planet (6) and the greatest threat to this biodiversity comes from new access roads that would open up pristine areas to outside pressures.

August 2004. For the next several months Petrobras was supposedly working on its new studies, but then just 5 days before a high profile visit by Brazilian President Lula, the Environment Ministry suddenly granted Petrobras its license (2), causing great controversy (3) due to lack of any resolution over the road issue. .

April 2004. The Ecuadorian Energy Ministry approved the EIA in early April. Petrobras then asked the Ecuadorian Environment Ministry for the environmental license necessary to begin the project. That same month, Dr. Matt Finer, an ecologist from the US, and Ecuadorian activist Carlos Fiallo of Action for Life (Accion por la Vida), had several meetings with a high level official within the Ecuadorian Environment Ministry warning of the dangers of road construction and proposing that Petrobras be forced to analyze roadless entry options as an alternative to their proposed access road. Despite heavy pressure from Petrobras for the immediate granting of the license, the Ministry agreed with Finer and Fiallo and forced Petrobras back to the drawing boards to submit an alternative plan

March 2004. Armando Boya, the President of the Waorani representative organization ONHAE, signed a five-year agreement with Petrobras. Many of the Waorani opposed this agreement and charged that it was not legitimate because of failure to obtain approval by the majority of the Waorani communities. Boya was voted out of office months after he signed the agreement.

November 2003. Petrobras prepared for drilling in Block 31 by presenting its environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the development of the Nenke and Apaika wells to the Energy and Environment Ministries. This EIA called for the construction of a major access road (1) from the Napo River south, crossing the Tiputini River, and into the heart of Yasuní National Park, where they were to construct and operate two drilling platforms. .

2002. Due to the economic crisis in Argentina, Perez Companc sold their rights to Block 31, before ever extracting any oil, to Brazilian national oil company Petrobras..

1996. The era of oil in Block 31 began when the Ecuadorian government signed a contract with the Argentine company Perez Companc for oil exploration in this area of Yasuní. Block 31 is located on very sensitive grounds: both ancestral Waorani territory and the remote northeastern region of Yasuní National Park. Over the next several years during the late 1990s, Perez Companc conducted extensive seismic testing throughout the block and drilled several exploratory wells. Their principal finds were the seventy million barrels of oil located in the Nenke and Apaika fields in the north-central part of Block 31

Pre 1960. The Block 31 region of Yasuní National Park was intact primary Amazon rainforest, untouched by oil companies, loggers or settlers from outside. The forest was used by indigenous Waorani hunter gatherers as they had for millennia. All the species of plants and animals were still abundant in this region of the Western Amazon, the most biodiverse forest on earth.

2. References – Sources
Listed by number according to History timeline above
1.   April 28, 2004 - Oil Company Poised to Penetrate Yasuní
2.   April 2004 Environmental License Granted to Petrobras
3.   September 2004 - Pressure From Brazil Leads to Petrobras License to Enter Yasuni National Park
4.   November 2004 - Scientists Concerned for Yasuni Technical Report and Letter PDF 1 MB
5.   October 2004 Scientists Concerned for Yasuní Report - Yasuní Most Biodiverse
6.   Biodiversity Maps Showing Yasuní-Napo Moist Forest Region is Planet's Most Biodiverse
7.   Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Resolution PDF
8.   Smithsonian Letter PDF
9.   February 2005 - E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall, Other Scientists Letter PDF
10. February 2005 - New York Times - Biologists Oppose Oil Road In Yasuní PDF
11. March 2005 - Ecuador Permits Petrobras to Begin Construction in Yasuní National Park
12. May 2005 - Petrobras Begins Road Construction, Intends to Enter Yasuní National Park.
13. July 2005 - Letter From Environment Minister Ana Alban to Petrobras Stopping the Road
14. July 2005- Environment Minister Halts Petrobras Road - September News Story
15. July 12-14 2005- Waorani Protest in Quito Against Petrobras
16. July 2005 - Waorani Letter To Government Against Petrobras PDF
17. December 2005 - E.O. Wilson Jane Goodall Letter To Protect Yasuni  PDF      En Espanól PDF
18. April 2006 - Petrobras Presents Changes to Block 31 Project
19. September 2006 - Petrobras Revised EIA PDF
20. Petrobras EIA Map - No Access Road PDF
21. September 2006 - Scientists Concerned for Yasuní Warn of 5 Problems with New Petrobras EIA 3 MB PDF
22. September 2006 - Scientists Concerned for Yasuní Warn of 5 Problems with New Petrobras EIA 3 MB PDF
24. No Official Consultation By Petrobras with the Waorani Is Violation Of International LAW - ILO 169
25. September 2006 - Letter from NGOs
26. November 2006 - Environment Ministry Letter Denying Problems Raised by Scientists PDF
27. January 2007 - Letter Rebuttal to False Claims by Environment Ministry PDF
28. Investors Brief PDF
29. Letter Accompanying Investors Brief PDF
30. April 2007 - Press Report That Environment Minister Will Grant Petrobras License
31. April 2007 - New NGO Opposition Letter PDF
32. April 2007 - Energy Minister Acosta Response Letter PDF
33. June 2007 - DINAPA Report Says Petrobras Must Redesign Project To Solve Environmental Problems PDF

34. October 2007 - Government Report Criticizing Petrobras Project Revealed to Public Six Months Late
                  El Comercio                 El Universo

35. October 2007 - Waorani Protest Against Petrobras
36. October 2007 - Environmental License for Petrobras PDF
37. October 2007 - Widespread Protest Against Petrobras Obtaining Environmental License
38. October 2007 - Waorani Protest Again in Quito Against Petrobras License
39. October 2007 - MAE Recurso PDF
40. October 2007 - MEM Recurso PDF
41. October 2007 - CONAIE Lawsuit (Amparo Constitucionales) Against Petrobras License PDF
42. October 2007 - NAWE Lawsuit (Amparo Constitucionales) Against Petrobras License PDF
3. References – Sources

Organized by groups, e.g. Maps, Government Documents, etc.


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Read the letter from the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
Read the letter from Scientists of the Smithsonian Institution
Read the letter from the Scientists Concerned for Yasuni National Park

Read the letter from Leading Scientists, including E.O. Wilson and Dr. Jane Goodall
E.O. Wilson Lecture and Slide Show in the U.S. Senate
Dr. Jane Goodall's Press Conference and Lecture in the U.S. Senate
Dr. Peter Raven's letter to the Senate endorsing the Act to Save America's Forests

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