Brazil rejects oil company’s ‘Amazon Reef’ drilling bid

Ibama, Brazil's environmental regulator, rejected Total SA's environmental impact study for proposed drilling near the mouth of the Amazon.

A French oil giant suffered a set back in its bid to drill for oil near the mouth of the Amazon river.

Ibama, Brazil’s environmental regulator, today rejected Total SA’s environmental impact study, arguing that the company has failed to provide information needed for the license to move forward.

Ibama said Total needs to address concerns over potential impacts on marine mammals, sea turtles, and birds as well as improve oil spill dispersion modeling and risk forecasting. Failure to do so could lead the agency to suspend the licensing process.

“This will be the third and last time that the Agency is willing to allow Total to provide adequate information about the environmental impact of the project,” said Suely Araujo, Ibama’s president. “If Total does not adequately address the outstanding requests from the technical team, the licensing process will be finally archived.”

Total however said “the environmental licensing process is still underway,” according to a statement the company provided to Reuters.

Image of the Amazon Reef taken from a submarine launched from the MY Esperanza, Greenpeace’s ship. Photo © Greenpeace.

Total’s project lies in the Foz do Amazonas basin, which by some estimates could contain up to 14 billion barrels of oil, or “more than the entire proven reserves in the Gulf of Mexico,” according to Reuters. But the project has become entangled in controversy since Greenpeace and other environmental groups launched campaigns highlighting the presence of a large coral reef — which activists have dubbed the “Amazon Reef” given its proximity to the mouth of the Amazon River — less than 30 kilometers from Total’s proposed drilling blocks. Environmentalists say oil extraction and potential spills pose a direct threat to coastal forests, reefs, and marine life.

Greenpeace immediately welcomed Ibama’s decision.

“After two years and multiple unanswered questions, Total has failed to meet the demands of the regulator, Ibama. They have shown they are incompetent and not fit to drill anywhere near the Amazon Reef. Ibama shouldn’t give them another chance to threaten this precious ecosystem,” said Helena Spiritus, Greenpeace Brazil Energy Campaigner, in a statement. “The only right decision by Total now is to give up their plans to drill at the Amazon mouth.”

Image of the Amazon Reef taken from a submarine launched from Greenpeace’s ship the MY Esperanza. Photo © Greenpeace.

Header image: Image of the Amazon Reef taken from a submarine launched from the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza. Photo © Greenpeace.

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