On Wednesday August 4, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa agreed with the UN Development Program (UNDP) to prohibit oil drilling for at least ten years in three Amazon oil fields located under Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. In return the UNDP agreed to establish a $3.6 billion trust fund for Ecuador, the amount the country would have earned if it developed the oil reserves. Ecuador pledged to use interest earned on the trust fund will be invested to protect the national park and 43 other nature reserves in the country. The trust will be funded by contributions from other countries, NGOs, and companies. Ecuador also is seeking to change the terms of its oil exploration agreements with foreign oil companies from production-sharing to fixed price service contracts. Spencer Swartz & Mercedes Alvaro, Ecuador Shifts Terms with Foreign Oil Firms, Wall St. J., Aug. 9, 2010, at A13.
A Harris poll commissioned by the FInancial Times shows strong support in several countries for increased regulation of oil companies following the BP oil spill. More than 90 percent of those aware of the spill in France, Spain, and Italy support increased regulation, compared to more than 75 percent in the United States. Not surprisingly the spill caused the greatest damage to BP’s reputation in the U.S. with nearly two-thirds of U.S. respondents reporting that they think less of BP due to the spill, while only one-third of those in Britain did so. However, 73% of Britons agreed that regulation of oil companies should be strengthened, as did more than 75% of Americans. The poll indicated that the spill affected the public’s attitude toward the oil industry in general. “Almost a third of Americans said they thought less of all energy companies following the accident, four in ten said they were now more worried about climate change and two-thirds said the disaster had increased their fears about their country’s dependence on oil.” James Boxell & Sylvia Pfeifer, BP Oil Spill Needs to Demand for More Regulation, Financial Times, August 9, 2010, at 2.
During the last several weeks more than 800 wildfires have swept across Russia in the midst of a record heat wave, causing such intense smoke pollution that air travel has been halted at times in Moscow and other cities. Pollution levels have greatly exceeded public health standards and deaths from respiratory illnesses reportedly have soared. Russian authorities have been criticized for inept responses to the fires and many are blaming the Kremlin for relaxing the national forest code in legislation championed by Vladimir Putin in 2006. The legislation disbanded a centralized system of 70,000 forest wardens, devolving responsibility to regional governments and logging firms who lease forest land.
On Friday August 6 the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests ordered the state government of Orissa to stop purchasing land for a new steel plant to be built by South Korea’s Pohang Iron and Steel Company (Posco). The Ministry claims that the state government falsely claimed that no forest-dependent tribes were living in the area where the $12 billion plant was to be built and that it had violated India’s Forest Rights Act. Prasenjit Bhattacharya, India Halts Land Purchases for Korean Plant, Wall St. J., August 9, 2010.