Jan 15, 2019 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, has initiated steps to probe Guyana’s preparedness for an oil spill. Sharma revealed that he has an officer in British Columbia (Canada’s westernmost province) at the moment, who is expected to return in June to follow through with the Audit Office’s investigation.
The Auditor General said, “She is working with the BC Audit Office on this. We have started this since the person went over there and she is being guided by the staff there on this matter. We are hoping by the first quarter of 2020 to issue the report. So the process has started but will be completed when she returns…”
In addition to the efforts being undertaken by the Audit Office, the APNU+AFC Government is in the process of seeking international help on various issues, two of which include crisis management in the petroleum sector and boosting Guyana’s preparedness for oil spills.
Specifically piloting efforts in this regard is the Natural Resources Ministry. On its website, the Ministry noted that it is inviting proposals for Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment consultancy in compliance with the requirements of the Guyana Oil and Gas Capacity Building Project #166730, funded by the World Bank.
The Ministry explained that the Government will hire a consultancy firm to prepare a Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) for Guyana’s new oil and gas sector to help meet long-term country development outcomes by integrating environmental, social (including labour), health, safety and security considerations in oil and gas policies, laws and sector growth.
Considering the ongoing and proposed development and capacity building activities for the oil and gas sectors, the SESA is expected to provide a comprehensive sector-wide examination of potential impacts, both positive and negative, and identify gaps in regulations, institutional capacity, and public consultation mechanisms.
Additionally, the SESA aims as being a strategic framework for strengthening environmental and social sustainability of the oil and gas sector in Guyana, strengthening the country’s ability to address health and safety issues in this sector, and to inform the preparation of an Indigenous People’s Planning Framework (IPPF).
In the process, the Ministry said that the SESA will contribute to a more transparent understanding of environmental and social regulations, creating a more level playing field for private investors.
As part of the SESA, the consultant is expected to do several things, one of which includes the identification of Health, Safety, Environmental and Social (HSES) Issues and Risks. In this phase, the Consultant will identify the existing government agencies in Guyana with responsibility (defined mandates, roles and responsibilities), and existing built in capacity (or lack of) for contingency planning and responding to petroleum sector events such as oil spills. (SEE LINK FOR MORE DETAILS : https://motp.gov.gy/index.php/notices/terms-of-reference/3317-guyana-oil-gas-capacity-building-project-p166730-terms-of-reference-tor-strategic-environmental-social-assessment)
The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, one of the most critical documents that is supposed to be in place for any emerging petroleum producer like Guyana, is expected to be in place by March 2019. This was noted by head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams during an interview with this newspaper last year.
Dr. Adams noted that the EPA had a chance to review the draft plan and several comments were returned to the Civil Defense Commission (CDC) for consideration.
Dr. Adams described the Oil Spill Contingency Plan as “a work in progress” while noting that it needs a lot of details. The Environmental Engineer is also of the opinion that a proper risk assessment will be needed for the plan. He said that the risk assessment will identify the areas that are most vulnerable to an oil spill and the far reaching effects of such an eventuality.
The EPA Head said that the CDC may wish to hire someone to do the assessment since it is a technical area and the document will be a most important one for Guyana’s oil sector.
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