Colombia blames Ecopetrol for pipeline explosion

This is the first time I’ve heard of a South American country really laying down the law on its state oil company for a deadly accident or environmental catastrophe. (See prior post for the opposite — a country that helps the state oil company cover up a disaster.) Colombia Reports has a good summary:

The Colombian Comptroller General rules negligence caused the fatal explosion of an Ecopetrol pipeline last December.

33 people, including a six-year-old girl, were killed and many homes destroyed when the pipeline ruptured in Dosquebradas, in the central western department of Risaralda.

Ecopetrol initially claimed the explosion was caused by someone drilling through the pipeline to steal oil, then later blamed landslides — but the Comptroller has now placed responsibility firmly on the company, stating it failed to carry out “timely maintenance.”

Now I know that Colombia gets a lot of flak for its human rights abuses and the ongoing killings of political organizers who oppose mines and other big projects. I am not holding up Colombia as the example for all nations to follow. But I think it’s worth a bit of thought — how is it that they have managed to create enough separation of powers that they can actually control state institutions? I don’t know much of the history of it, but it’s impressive.

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4 thoughts on “Colombia blames Ecopetrol for pipeline explosion

  1. paramo

    Yeap. Interesting case. Like in Ecuador and Brazil, national tribunals are currently carrying out cases on environmental disasters against corporations according to their national laws, while the U.S. Supreme Court is trying to avoid the jurisdiction of US Courts on cases brought through the Alien Tort Statute.

    If the U.S. Supreme Court rejects the liability of Corporations for violation of Human Rights or Environmental disasters committed abroad (See current case Kiobel at the U.S. Supreme Court), we will probably see more cases in national courts like the Chevron Case in Ecuador, or the Shell case in Brazil.

  2. westslope

    Setty, yes it is impressive. Note that Ecopetrol regardless of exact fault is taking care of damages and compensating victims. Kinder Morgan Canada did the same in the City of Burnaby when city contractors burst through the TransCanada Mountain pipeline a few years ago.

    As far as I could read, the city and the contractors were at fault. KMC came in and took good care of the 3 or 4 homes that were directly impacted and took immediate charge of cleaning up the minor spill in Burrard Inlet.

    The mayor of Burnaby had the support of labour unions, and came from a cigarette smoking, alcohol-imbibing sub-culture that from all appearances didn’t care much about the environment but exhibited strong quick-growth values. A year or so earlier he had specifically instructed staff to not pay minimal attention to urban stream keepers who were trying to save salmon and steelhead streams from rapid urbanization.

    Interesting how Ecopetrol’s share price was flat yesterday while markets corrected sharply, supposedly on negative news from the Greek debt drama and China’s decision to target lower growth–7.5%. Brazilian NOC Petrobras corrected sharply.

  3. John Smith

    COLOMBIA HAS LEARNED A VERY HARD, HARD LESSON OVER RECENT DECADES. YOU CANNOT WIN A GUERRILLA WAR BY THE HARD LEFT IF YOU CAN’T GIVE YOUR PEOPLE JUSTICE.
    THE POLITICAL CLASS HAS COME A LONG WAY IN REDUCING CORRUPTION. SO THE ECO PETROL EXECS HAVE A BIG PROBLEM! BEHIND THIS LIES TWENTY SIX MURDERS A DAY, FOR YEARS, AND THE NATIONAL ARMY’S SUVACHOKE AND “THE PALACE OF JUSTICE MURDERS (1976).”
    COLOMBIA’S LEADERS ALSO RECEIVED A DELEGATION OF 42 EUROPEAN AND CANADIAN JUDGES WHO DELIVERED A VERY UNDIPLOMATIC MESSAGE ABOUT CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.
    THE ARMY GENERAL’S MURDER TRIALS WERE IN THE LAST THREE YEARS. AND YES, THE GENERALS WENT TO JAIL AS DID THE MAYOR OF BOGOTA LAST YEAR FOR CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT PAYOFFS.
    MEXICO WAS THE COLOMBIAN NIGHTMARE OF THE 1970’S, 1980’S & 1990’S, HALF OF ALL COLOMBIAN FAMILIES HAD SOMETHING “REALLY BAD” HAPPEN TO THEM DURING THE FARC TROUBLES. PRESIDENT URIBES FATHER WAS MURDERED BY THE FARC. WE ARE TALKING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DEAD PEOPLE HERE AND THE GOVERNMENT BEING LISTED AS A “FAILED STATE” THAT FORCED THESE CHANGES.
    BUT THAT’S HISTORY HERE. COLOMBIA IS NO LONGER THE WORLDS LEADING COKE PRODUCER. THE FARC IS DYING A SLOW DEATH AND THE CAMPESINO SENTIMENT IS HEAVILY AGAINST IT.
    THE CHANGE IS ALL BEEN ABOUT INTOLERANCE OF CORRUPTION AND REJECTION OF INJUSTICE BY POLITICIANS, BUREAUCRATS JUDGES, AND GENERALS. ..
    SO THAT IS ALL IT TOOK TO MAKE THE “ECO PETROL” EVENT HAPPEN. AND YES, THERE IS STILL A LONG WAY TO GO, BUT THE PLAUDITS REALLY ARE DESERVED.
    I HOPE MEXICO LEARNS FASTER AND VENEZUELA NEEDS TO GET SOME FOCUS. HOW CAN A COUNTRY BE A FAILED PETROLERO STATE?.
    ANYWAY, YOU DON’T WANT TO BE FOLLOWING COLOMBIA’S EXAMPLE. COLOMBIA’S GOING TO BE CLEAN FOR THE NEXT HUNDRED FIFTY YEARS, AND IT HAS A GDP GROWTH RATE TO BE JEALOUS OF, WHICH LIKELY WILL MAKE IT THE FIRST “FIRST WORLD COUNTRY” IN LATIN AMERICA. BUT AT WHAT A PRICE. COLOMBIA DID “A REAL AW SHIT ROAD!” IT’S FEELS BETTER TO CLEAN UP THE CORRUPTION BEFORE YOU HAVE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DEAD, INCLUDING MEMBERS OF YOUR OWN FAMILY, THAN CLEANING UP AFTERWARDS AS COLOMBIA HAS DONE.
    SO LET THE GOOD TIME ROLL.
    THE GERMANS ARE DISCOVERING CARTAGENA AS A TOURIST DESTINATION BECAUSE THEY THINK MEXICO IS DANGEROUS. COLOMBIAS GOING TO BECOME A PETROLERO COUNTRY (1 MILLION BARRELS OF OIL A DAY). THIS YEAR BECAUSE CHAVEZ EXILED ALL THOSE NASTY YANKEE PETROLEUM ENGINEERS WITH VENEZUELAN NAMES AND THEY STOPPED IN COLOMBIA TO LOOK FOR OIL BECAUSE IT’S CLOSE TO HOME AND FINALLY,
    WHEN CHAVEZ CLOSED THE COLOMBIAN BORDER, URIBE SOLD 95 PERCENT OF COLOMBIAS EXPORTS TO VENEZUELA TO THIRD COUNTRIES, WITHIN 30 DAYS, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO THE EUROPEAN UNION, CANADA, THE UNITED STATES AND JAPAN. AND THIS OF COURSE TRANSLATED INTO A BUNCH OF FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS AND BETTER SALES PRICES. COLOMBIA HAS INFLATION NOW BECAUSE CHAVEZ WANTED HIS FOOD BACK AFTER IT WAS SOLD TO SOMEONE ELSE, BECAUSE HIS ARGENTINIAN STUNT DIDN’T WORK. SO COLOMBIA HAD TO RAISE IT FOOD PRODUCTION JUST TO COVER THE NEW BUSINESS IT WASN’T LOOKING FOR.
    COLOMBIA REMAINS UNAFFECTED BY THE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS OF VENEZUELA AND THE REST OF THE WORLD. AND IT DOES HAVE A LOT OF FOREIGN INVESTORS. MAYBE THAT’S BECAUSE OF
    THE ECO PETROL STYLE JUSTICE. .
    IT’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN A COUNTRY COMES TOGETHER. NOW IF WE CAN JUST GET THE DESPLACADO PROBLEM RESOLVED, LIFE WOULD BE GOOD.

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