In 2020, a protective action was filed against the annual authorization made by the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources that allows some oil companies to use lighters for burning and venting of gas. The plaintiffs are girls who have suffered from chronic diseases due to contact with the lighters. The plaintiffs argued that the lighters violate the rights of Nature laid out in the Ecuadorian constitution as well as environmental rights. A municipal court in the canton Lago Agrio denied the protective action because it believed there was no evidence of a violation of rights of constitutional rank or the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed an appeal.
On October 7, 2021, the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and approved the protective action. The court ordered the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, through the Hydrocarbons Secretariat, together with the oil companies, to update the plan for the gradual elimination and progressive removal of traditional burners used for burning gas. Those found in places near populated centers must be removed within 18 months. The remaining lighters must be progressively eliminated with total removal by December 2030. The Court said the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, through the Hydrocarbons Secretariat, or the corresponding state entity, could authorize new lighters in places far from populated centers when new technology is presented that reduces environmental pollution in the percentages that the state portfolio will determine for this purpose. The Ministry of the Environment must carry out an annual monitoring plan and verify the restoration of the natural environments of the surroundings where gas lighters have been operating, in order to take precautionary actions in favor of Nature. The Ministry of the Environment will carry out intersectoral coordination, including the Decentralized Autonomous Governments (GAD’s) of the provinces of Sucumbíos, Orellana and Napo, to evaluate the quality and suitability of the water resources used by local populations.