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After Spill, Prosecutors Seek Order to Keep Repsol Managers in Peru

Beach cleanup peru
Beach cleanup operations near Lima, January 19 (Peruvian Ministry of the Environment)

Published Jan 27, 2022 10:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

A prosecutor in Lima has asked Peruvian courts to prohibit four managers of the La Pampilla refinery complex from leaving the country, and criminal charges involving operator Repsol may be forthcoming. 

During unloading operations with the tanker Mare Doricum on January 15, a buoy terminal connected to the refinery released some 6,000 barrels of crude oil into the water off Lima, according to Peruvian regulators. The spill has contaminated a stretch of the Peruvian coastline between Callao and Barranca, a distance of about 75 nautical miles, as well as the ecologically-sensitive Isla e Islotes offshore marine reserve. Cleanup efforts are ongoing, with guidance from national regulators and from UN advisors. 

The Specialized Prosecutor for Environmental Matters for Lima Noroeste is considering a criminal case, and it has called on a district court to issue an order preventing four Repsol executives from leaving the country, ensuring that they will be available for any possible criminal proceedings. 

The named individuals include refinery manager Jaime Fernández-Cuesta Luca de Tena; terminal manager Renzo Alejandro Tejada Mackenzie; environmental manager Gisela Cecilia Posadas Jhong; and production manager José Gregorio Reyes Ruiz, according to Peruvian media.

Peru's Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA) alleges that Repsol has not complied with orders related to the cleanup effort for these areas, and the agency has issued an initial fine of 18.4 million Peruvian soles ($4.8 million). “Repsol has not complied with identifying the areas affected by the oil spill," said OEFA director Mimiam Alegria at a press conference. 

The agency contends that Repsol may also have passed by a deadline for an order to protect and rescue marine wildlife affected by the spill; if the agency determines that this order has not been followed, an additional "coercive fine" may be imposed. Each further infraction comes with a potential monetary penalty of the same amount, Alegria said. 

In a statement, Repsol said that it would "continue working to remedy the impact generated by the oil spill, deploying all our efforts and monitoring all activities by air to detect possible new affected areas." 

Even before the fines related to cleanup orders, Repsol could face liabilities of up to $500 million for compensation for the effects of the spill, Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) attorney Julio Cesar Guzman told Exitosa Noticias.