Aug 25, 2017 News
“Any shortcomings will be corrected in next phase” – Patterson
By Abena Rockcliffe- Campbell
The government has been “assured” and seems to be quite satisfied that oil giant, ExxonMobil,
is toeing the line. Nevertheless, the administration is prepared to address any noted shortcomings when the oil company applies for its license to undergo Phase-two of the Liza project.
At least this is what Minister of Public Infrastructure told Kaieteur News at a recent press conference.
Patterson is a member of the Cabinet sub-committee that has been appointed to look at all matters relating to oil and gas. This committee is referred to as the quintet plus one, and also comprises Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan and Advisor to the President on oil and gas, Dr. Jan Mangal.
Patterson was asked if he has any concerns about the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that ExxonMobil submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – despite the fact that the EIA has been deemed “weak”. The Minister responded in the negative.
He said that the government has been assured by the EPA that “all safeguards are there. So, at this point and time I have no concern.”
Patterson then took the opportunity to “make it clear” that the EIA that was submitted to and accepted by the EPA, as well as ExxonMobil’s developmental plan that has been approved by the Government of Guyana, are only for Phase-one of the Liza project. Patterson explained that Phase-one only covers the extraction of no more than half a million barrels of oil.
Patterson said that the entire reserve where ExxonMobil is operating has so far been proven to have between 2.25 and 2.75 billion barrels “which means we have six to eight times more. So if they would like to go beyond the 500,000 in Liza one, and they want to go to two, they have to submit a renewed EIA, a new developmental plan… the entire gamut.”
The Minister continued, “So, if, and I say if, because I do not have proof that there are any issues or matters that are lacking in the EIA, we will address it, but we haven’t found any. We do not know of any but I know there is concern, and we continue to interrogate, but please understand that no less than Liza one, which is the very first find, is involved here. We are talking of about 450,000 barrels of oil – that is all that has been approved by the government.
Exxon, in its EIA, claims that the possibility of an oil spill is not very high. However, it said that there is a 10 percent chance that in the event of a spill, oil will reach the coast of Guyana where 90 percent of its population sits.
ExxonMobil inferred that because of the purported ‘slim’ chance of an oil spill, detailed response measures are not needed. However, with a two percent possibility of occurring, the practice around the world is that oil companies are made to cater in detail for disasters. And indeed, the impact of an oil spill will be major for Guyana and its neighbours.
There is also nothing in the EIA that speaks to how Guyana’s neighbours will be compensated. What was clear is that ExxonMobil did not commit to bearing the legal or financial responsibility in the event of a disaster. There is a possibility that neighbouring countries, when environmental damage occurs, can move against Guyana. If the burden is left to bear 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.
The EIA has little or no information on the role to be played by relevant stakeholders as it pertains to consultations, training and quick response measures. In the event of an oil spill, there is no oversight mechanism in place to oversee the remedial action taken by the company.
The EIA noted that the light nature of the Liza field crude oil, and the region’s warm waters would help minimize the severity of a spill. “Accounting for these factors, the modeling indicates only a five to 10 percent probability of any oil reaching the Guyana coast.”
However, Exxon admitted that a spill at a Liza well would likely impact marine resources found near the well.
ExxonMobil has been known to be associated with some of the world’s most horrific oil spills. One such 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 cold, 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.
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