The Wave Against Fracking in Colombia
Beginning in 2018, there have been several attempts in the Congress of Colombia to prohibit or discourage regulations that favor the exploration and exploitation of unconventional reservoirs in the country. To date there have been at least three such bills, including one that seeks to qualify fracking as a felony in the Criminal Code.
These yet-to-pass attempts show a growing animadversion in Congress against the possibility of development activities in unconventional reservoirs in Colombia.
The most recent attempt, in August 2020, was a bill to prohibit the exploration and exploitation of unconventional reservoirs, which not only forbids the execution of contracts for the development of such activities in Colombian territory but also does not allow the renewal of contracts, licenses and environmental permits of such projects. In addition, the bill proposes to gradually substitute cleaner energies for the use and exportation of fossil fuels in 10 years to fulfill the commitments of the Paris Agreement, among others. However, many consider it naïve to embrace a 10-year plan to decrease fossil fuels in an economy that depends mainly on the oil and gas industry, and the implications of such substitution for the transportation, manufacturing and agricultural sectors as well as foreign investment.
Taking into account concerns on both sides, the Colombian government – in order to determine and understand the environmental impacts of hydraulic stimulation in horizontal multistage wells – recently established the possibility of performing pilot projects under specific parameters. Thus, the government has issued the terms of reference for environmental impact studies in order to obtain environmental license for such projects. With the aforementioned terms of reference, the government wants to not only identify the environmental impacts of fracking but also determine whether the existing conditions allow the industry to develop the activity in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner.
The coming months will show the response and the debate around the unconventional reservoirs in Congress, which without doubt will be affected by public opinion that has shown a progressive opposition to these types of oil and gas activities.
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