Aug 08, 2017 News
Because of the Government’s failure to make the contract with ExxonMobil public, Guyanese are unable to fully assess whether or not it has entered into the best possible arrangement.
So said former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall during an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday.
The opposition Member of Parliament noted, “ExxonMobil is in the business of making profit; so one must expect that Exxon will try to construct a contract that would be as profitable to them as far as possible.”
He said that on the other hand, the government owes the people of Guyana a serious fiduciary duty to ensure that they negotiate the best deal for Guyana and its people.
“That must be their paramount consideration. Unfortunately, in the face of the secrecy that surrounds this transaction, one cannot safely say that the government is discharging this responsibility in the manner that it should.”
Nandlall noted the many revelations being made by this newspaper, including the horror stories of other countries. He said that he is left to wonder what safeguards Guyana has put in place to protect its resource and its people.
Nandlall made reference to the fact that ExxonMobil, in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that it submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, was silent on how it will handle legal action taken by any country that is likely to be affected in the eventuality of an oil spill.
Nandlall said, “The nation should not have to be in this state of ignorance, people should know how their resource and environment will be protected.”
The former Attorney General pointed to the days when the political parties that now form the coalition government were in opposition. He said, “They asked for so many documents that they could not even read. They wanted the Amaila Falls (Hydro Project) agreement, the CJIA (Cheddi Jagan International Airport) modernization agreement and many others. They were given all, but now they are withholding this very important agreement from the public.”
Nandlall stressed, “This is the nation’s patrimony we are speaking about. This is not the asset of the APNU government or any particular minister, it is the people’s assets. They (government officials) are telling us every day in public statements that oil belongs to the people, so why not allow the people to know what is going on.”
The prospecting licence granted by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government in 1999 says that the contractor—which is ExxonMobil and its affiliates—will be responsible for any tragedy including pollution and loss of life. However, the EIA, while it states (minimum) actions to be taken by Exxon in the case of pollution including oil spill, says nothing about who will bear the burden of action taken by other affected counties.
Exxon’s EIA says that “there is the potential for oil to reach at least portions of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia, although this would be much less likely in a real-world scenario in which mitigation measures would be applied.
The unmitigated models predict that surface oil would travel towards the northwest in all scenarios during both the summer (June to November) and winter (December to May) seasons. Differences in seasonal wind speed and direction result in a range of shoreline length oiled. Stronger easterly winds would result in the potential for more significant shoreline oiling, particularly in Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, while lower wind speeds allow the surface plume to be transported to the north of Trinidad and Tobago and into a portion the Caribbean Sea.”
Exxon said that the impacts in these countries could be large, while ignoring the possible reactions of the governments of the listed countries.
Nandlall noted that while the EIA is silent on this matter as it relates to who will bear the responsibility. He noted, however, that there is a possibility that the actual licence pays attention to the issues. He said, “we are left to worry what is the reality on these and other matters.”
Nandlall stressed that the ordinary Guyanese people are the ones who will suffer most if the government has not negotiated well enough. Therefore, he said, “it is simple; they have a right to know.”
There is a possibility that neighbouring countries, when environmental damage occurs, can move against Guyana. If the burden is left to be borne by Guyana, the country may have to pay damages equivalent to years of oil revenues. ExxonMobil’s EIA also offers no compensation to fishermen and other Guyanese who are most likely to be affected
in the case of an oil spill.
ExxonMobil is known to be associated with some of the world’s most horrific oil spills. One good example is what happened in Alaska, United States.
In 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez slammed into a reef and spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil into the clear waters of Alaska. Those waters, referred to as ‘Prince William Sound’ were deemed one of the “last best places” on Earth. The oil charged through Prince William Sound and out into the Gulf of Alaska. The damage spread more than 1,300 miles of some of the most remote, wild shorelines in America.
The amount of oil spilled can fill 125 Olympic size swimming pools. Four deaths were directly associated with clean up efforts.
Although this happened 28 years ago, The Valdez area in Alaska has not recovered to date.
The coastal ecosystem is said to be permanently damaged. There are still pools of oil sitting in some parts of the beaches. This oil is still toxic and still hurting the ecosystem near the shore.
With ExxonMobil’s operations heading into full swing, Guyana is now at risk of having to face the consequences of an oil spill.
According to the source document, ExxonMobil has little or no plans in place to deal with any financial eventuality of an oil spill.
Exxon claims that the possibility of an oil spill is not very high. In the event of an oil spill, there is no oversight mechanism in place to oversee the remedial action taken by the company.
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