Colombia oil workers join anti-fracking campaign

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s largest oil union has joined anti-fracking activists to oppose the development of non-conventional energy deposits and demand a quicker transition to renewable energy, campaigners said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a sign that reads: "No to fracking", during a protest against the use of fracking, in Bogota, Colombia June 7, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

The Petroleum Industry Workers Union (USO) and the Colombia Free from Fracking Alliance said in a joint statement they are joining forces to protect the Magdalena Medio region and the country as a whole from non-conventional exploration.

Colombians are divided over the development of non-conventional deposits, including fracking for shale gas and coal bed methane.

Commercial development of the deposits is currently not permitted, but the country’s highest administrative court is holding hearings ahead of a final ruling and has allowed pilot projects to go ahead in the meantime.

“(USO) is joining forces with different social and political organizations in the country to oppose this type of exploitation and advocates an accelerated just energy transition,” union president Edwin Palma said in a post on Twitter.

Some 120 other organizations form part of the anti-fracking alliance. USO has around 30,000 members.

Anti-fracking groups are international, well-organized and well-financed by those who stand to lose out from the development of non-conventional gas, Armando Zamora, the president of Colombia’s national hydrocarbons agency said during a virtual seminar earlier on Tuesday, without offering any evidence.

Anti-fracking efforts “come from those countries which (fracking) doesn’t suit,” Zamora added, identifying Russia as a country that would not benefit from fracking success.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for further information on Zamora’s comments.

The allegations are “false,” the Colombia Free from Fracking Alliance said.

“We demand (Zamora) publicly release evidence concerning the supposed financing by Russia of fracking opposition in (Colombia), or withdraw his comments,” the group said in a message.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis