Juan Cabandié, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development (Photo: courtesy of Revista Puerto)
Offshore exploration: Environment approved the new environmental impact study
Tuesday, August 16, 2022, 07:10 (GMT + 9)
In response to the requirements of the justice system, the Ministry of AyDS approved a complementary study in which they take charge of the control tasks and prohibit the performance of new explorations in the same place for 24 months and as an exception. Judge Santiago Martín must define whether these measures are enough to guarantee sustainability.
The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (AyDS) approved through Resolution 7/22 the complementary environmental impact study (EIA) presented before the justice in the framework of the Offshore Exploration case that the mayor of Mar del Plata and civilians have initiated against the National state. From the arguments put forward in the resolution published yesterday in the Official Gazette, it can be deduced that, in the complementary EIS, the studies carried out in the previous report have been ratified, but modifications have also been made. From now on, control tasks will be under the purview of this Ministry and not the Economy Ministry, as previously approved; and 24 months must be waited before carrying out a new survey in the same area and only if the information previously collected has not been sufficient. With this measure, they consider that they are meeting the requirements of the fishing sector, expressed in the last popular consultation regarding the assessment of direct, indirect, cumulative and synergistic impacts. Regarding the requirements made by the justice system regarding compliance with regulations on the preservation of the Southern Right Whale, they indicated that they have been fulfilled and that the Environmental Management Plan has been expanded with the incorporation of local observers. It is Judge Santiago Martín who must now define whether the incorporated measures satisfy the demands made to guarantee the sustainability of the project.
On June 3, 2022, the Federal Chamber of Mar del Plata ordered the Ministry of the Environment to issue a new complementary environmental impact statement, in order to continue the activities of the project called "Argentina Offshore Seismic Acquisition Campaign: North Basin ( CAN 108, CAN 100 AND CAN 114)” (See The Chamber issued a ruling on offshore exploration).
This new study should include aspects related to the requirements made in all popular consultations, including the last one carried out by the Deliberative Council of Mar del Plata, after the last EIA approved, in which the fishing sector raised the lack of predictability regarding the direct, indirect, cumulative and synergistic impacts of the seismic activity to be carried out.
On this point, in the recitals of the resolution it has been indicated that the results of the participatory instances "were studied and appreciated by the technical area, making a weighted analysis by theme" and specifically on what was exposed in the June consultation they indicated that: "Equinor was required to carry out a complementary report to the approved environmental impact study, updating it and incorporating the assessment of the direct, indirect, cumulative and synergistic impacts for the spatial scope and the time periods of the campaign."
The Ministry of the Environment reported that in order to avoid the possible effects of the spatial and/or temporal overlapping of projects, "the performance of 3D seismic survey activities in blocks CAN 100, 108 and 114 in a period of no less than 24 months was discouraged. from the end of the approved seismic activity”
This was expressed in article 4 of the new resolution and it was specified: “That once said term has expired, it was recommended that the execution of eventual 3D seismic prospecting activities in blocks CAN 100, 108 and 114 be absolutely exceptional, and only proceed in To the extent that the authority understands that the previous seismic activity did not produce information of sufficient quality to survey the geology of the seabed, and that said data cannot be obtained by other means of acquisition".
Among the requirements made to guarantee a precautionary approach regarding the impacts, from the fishing sector and in accordance with international protocols, campaigns were required to be carried out in the area, before, during and after each seismic activity. This request was not contemplated in the resolution.
Removing control functions from the orbit of the Ministry of Energy was another of the judicial requirements, since the magistrates understood that a body dependent on the Ministry of Economy was not the one indicated to carry out this task.
In compliance with this order, Article 3 of Resolution 7 established that: "The control and supervision of compliance with this Environmental Impact Statement, its corresponding Environmental Management Plan and complementary regulations ia, will be in charge of the Secretariat of Environmental Control and Monitoring of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, without prejudice to the powers that correspond to other agencies".
Regarding the preservation of the Southern Right Whale, the Chamber ordered that the National Parks Administration be given intervention to evaluate and ensure compliance with current legislation and international agreements.
From the Ministry they communicated that the agency was intervened, requesting its opinion regarding different environmental impact studies in process, communicating the requirements to the oil company. Meanwhile, "Equinor proceeded to update and improve the mitigation measures and programs of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP)", essentially with regard to marine fauna and monitoring operators, hiring local personnel.
“In addition, it was stated in the PGA that Equinor will articulate actions and cooperate with the Federal Network for Assistance to Marine Fauna Strandings and with the jurisdictional actors that the latter considers, having the necessary means and resources for the purposes of attending the actions of the Network linked to the activity”; adding that the Administration of National Parks has indicated that the treatment of the consideration of natural monument of this whale was duly treated in the project.
The new environmental impact statement has already been sent to the Federal Court No. 2 of the city of Mar del Plata, which must now analyze and resolve whether the modifications proposed by the Ministry of the Environment and the oil company Equinor comply or not with the demands emanating from the judgment of the Chamber, carried out in order to comply with international protocols for seismic activity on the high seas.
Source: Revista Puerto
Edited by Malena Nahum