Balancing Oil Development with Biodiversity Protection
In anticipation of the planned oil and gas block development, and in recognition of the potential risks to Venezuela’s marine biodiversity, PDVSA hired The Nature Conservancy and Venezuela’s Institute of Technology and Marine Science at Simón Bolívar University (Intecmar) to identify priority areas for the conservation of marine biodiversity and to recommend practices that could be used by the energy industry to minimize impacts on ecologically important areas identified for conservation.
Science-Based Conservation Priorities
This study of priorities for the conservation of Caribbean marine biodiversity involved more than 30 Venezuelan scientists with conservation and sustainable use expertise. The study followed the Conservation by Design framework of the The Nature Conservancy and is modeled after guidelines established by the Energy and Biodiversity Initiative (EBI), a venture between conservation groups and energy firms to make oil and gas extraction more environmentally friendly.
Environmental Standards and Practices for Oil and Gas Lessee
Through this partnership, the Conservancy and Intecmar have proposed a set of conservation-based standards and practices to be incorporated into the documentation for each oil and gas lease, and they identified high priority areas for conservation. In addition to government enforcement of environmental laws, PDVSA will include these practices in each future contract.
In Venezuela, The Nature Conservancy and its partners have used a compensation hierarchy — Avoid, Minimize/Restore, Offset — as a framework for addressing environmental impacts of oil and gas development projects. For each project, the preferred option is to avoid impacts. If some impacts cannot be avoided, then environmental practices can be used to minimize the impacts, and ecological restoration can be conducted. Residual impacts are those that remain after avoidance, minimization, and restoration. Offsets can be implemented to counteract the residual impacts, potentially bringing the net environmental impact of a project to zero or even producing a net positive contribution to biodiversity.