SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s environmental regulator on Monday charged state oil company ENAP with improper fracking in Tierra del Fuego, a wild, largely unpopulated region at the southern fringe of the South American continent.
The country’s environmental superintendent (the SMA) said ENAP had failed to follow protocols in its permits for so-called “hydro-fracking” activities. Three of the six charges filed by regulators are serious enough to shut down the project, the regulator said.
ENAP said the “Arenal Project” was an “essential” part of its commitment to keep the surrounding area supplied with gas.
“For that reason, we view the SMA´s ruling with the utmost seriousness,” an ENAP spokesman said. “At present we are analyzing measures to take to… resolve the aspects brought to light by the SMA in the best way possible.”
The remote Tierra del Fuego region of Patagonia straddles the Chile-Argentina border and is renowned for its pristine natural parks, home to penguins, puma and abundant sea life.
Chile has few fossil fuels of its own, and has long been forced to import gas and oil from abroad, a drain on public coffers. State-run ENAP has over decades explored throughout Chile, but domestic production remains relatively small.
ENAP has 10 days to present a compliance plan to the regulator, or 15 days to dispute the charges, the environmental superintendent said in a statement.
Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Cynthia Osterman