February 27, 2009
The pipeline operator, Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados Ecuador SA, attributed the rupture to "natural causes."
The environmental impacts of the spill were not immediately apparent but scientist Douglas Beltman told Reuters that "the river was completely covered with oil from bank to bank.... it looked like a bad spill."
At least 35 multinational oil and gas companies operate the 180 blocks that cover 266,000 square miles of the Western Amazon in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Brazil.
Oil exploration in widespread in the western Amazon. A study published last year showed that 688,000 square kilometers (170 million acres) of the region is under concession for oil and gas development, including 72 percent — of the Peruvian Amazon, an area significantly larger than California. Some of the concessions overlap with protected areas and indigenous reserves.
Environmentalists have voiced grave concern over these developments. Oil and gas extraction can result in direct deforestation as well as contamination of waterways and lands with oil and drilling byproducts. In Ecuador, the law suit against Chevron estimates that Texaco spilled more than 17 million gallons (64 million liters) of crude oil and dumped some 20 million gallons (68 million liters) of other toxic chemicals into rivers during its years of operation.
Oil and gas development is often accompanied by road-building which provides access to previously remote areas and facilitates deforestation, colonization, and illegal logging, mining, and hunting.