…To advocate for clearly defined roles for response partners
By Kiana Wilburg
During an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News, Adams said that he requested to see the draft plan and it was delivered to his office yesterday morning. He said that the request was made so as to ascertain what role the EPA has to play as a key partner.
Dr. Adams who has a PhD in Environmental Engineering stated, “I met with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) Head, Colonel, Kester Craig and I got the document this morning (yesterday). We are supposed to meet on this matter again and one of the things I will be advocating is that we need to ensure we have clear roles and responsibilities defined in terms of how we respond to any spill …”
The EPA Head added, “There are several agencies which will be involved in this. You have CDC, the EPA, the Department of Energy (DOE) and so forth…the way I know it is done is that you will have members from the various bodies who will be part of a response team and they are supposed to be conducting regular drills. They will also have a special device which they are supposed to carry at all times so if they get a page saying they have to report to the emergency response centre, you there ahead…”
After reading the draft document thoroughly, Dr. Adams said that a meeting will be held with the Department of Energy and the CDC on the necessary amendments to be made.
A MUST BEFORE PRODUCTION
In the interim, the Inter-American Development (IDB) has made it clear that Guyana should have a national oil spill contingency plan in place before oil production commences in 2020.
In its special report, the IDB noted that Guyana’s CARICOM sister, Trinidad and Tobago which has been in the petroleum industry has taken the wise move to safeguard its sector with a national oil spill plan. That plan was updated and passed by TT’s Cabinet in January 2013. The IDB said that with TT’s new plan, “deep-water drilling operators will now be required to demonstrate accessibility to a containment lap system to arrest a subsea blow out event….”
With this in mind, the IDB believes that Guyana can take a page from Trinidad’s book and get its own plan in place soon.
It has been almost eight months since the first round of consultations was held on the draft national oil spill plan. The document was submitted to Cabinet but it is still to be made public and finalized.
Leading the work on the oil spill plan is the Civil Defence Commission. Specifically, Captain John R. Flores, Director of Maritime Safety had organized a small team of locals to draft the document.
Along with considering the inherent risks of drilling for oil, Flores said that Guyana is a member to several organizations, which mandates that a contingency oil spill plan has to be in place. He said that these organizations include the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The official also noted that Guyana is a signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Director of Maritime Safety said that several documents were used as a reference point for the creation of the framework for the oil spill plan. He said that these included the IMO’s manual on guidelines to be followed in the creation of an oil spill plan, draft procedures that Guyana’s authorities had from years ago, and oil spill plans by other nations such as Trinidad and Tobago.
Flores also noted that the framework speaks to some key positions, which would require appointments. In this regard, he noted that there would be a need for someone to oversee how dispersants would be used during an oil spill cleanup.
Further to this, CDC’s Director General, Kester Craig had said that the drafting of the document gives one the opportunity to reflect on the effects of oil and gas on the country and its people.
He had said, “We should take time to reflect on the voluminous natural resources our country possesses, which can contribute significantly to positive social and economic growth and development. At the same time, we should also reflect on how proactive and targeted Disaster Risk Reduction and Management measures can play an integral role in reducing negative environmental impacts during the utilization and exploitation of these resources.”
Craig noted that the consultation which occurred in March is yet another step in the right direction, where key stakeholders were able to critically review the first draft of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.
Craig explained that the intent of this Plan is to implement a framework, which would cater for coordinated response action to potential onshore and offshore oil spills. As such, he said that the plan needs to be simple but comprehensive, accessible, readily updatable, and reflective of not only the working culture of Guyana, but also in line with international standards and best practices.
The CDC Director General said, “Without preparation, no amount of expertise, manpower or equipment can be effectively organized on the spot in the chaotic situation that prevails after an oil spill. The scope of this contingency plan is based on what is known as a ‘tiered response’ framework.”
Craig said that this helps to ensure that the planned response reflects the scale of the particular spill. He noted that the mere existence of a plan is not sufficient to ensure preparedness for responding to an oil spill. He said that the planning process itself is as important, as it serves to raise issues that will likely arise in response, while raising awareness on roles and responsibilities of every stakeholder.
Further, Craig said that responders and coordinators have to be trained, the plan has to be tested and resources put in place to achieve the intended purpose and objective.
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