By Kiana Wilburg
Guyana’s oil laws and regulations need to be revised with a great degree of urgency as they are more than 30 years old.
But hiring a registered ExxonMobil lobbyist for this critical task is certainly not the way to go says former Presidential Advisor, Dr. Jan Mangal. In fact, the international consultant told Kaieteur News that it is a sure recipe for failure.
Dr. Mangal’s comments come on the heels of a recent exposé this newspaper published, which showed that American law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, shares a very close relationship with ExxonMobil.
Kaieteur’s investigation found that on 19th July, 2016, the law firm had filed a lobbying registration form to represent Exxon Mobil Corporation. The specific issues they would lobby for in ExxonMobil’s interest included Clean Air Act Regulatory Issues, Clean Water Act, Regulatory Issues, Early Action Compact Legislation, Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard Deadline Harmonization Act, Clean Air Implementation Act of 2015, and the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016.
The lawyer who is listed on the document to represent the client is Charles H. Knauss. He is a partner at the firm. (See Link for registration form: https://disclosurespreview.house.gov/ld/ldxmlrelease/2016/RR/300814978.xml).
Asked to comment on this, Dr. Mangal stated that Guyana cannot succeed with oil or any natural resource if it does not manage and regulate the industry with the country’s interests as the priority.
The former Presidential Advisor said, “It was clear to me in 2017/2018 that the Ministry of Natural Resources was not managing our new oil sector in a way that would result in success for Guyana. They did not hire any permanent oil and gas professionals with the decades of appropriate experience.”
Dr. Mangal said that Guyana needed at least a dozen highly qualified and ethical professionals who would have the country’s interest at heart, and not the interests of the oil companies. He noted however that the Ministry of Natural Resources ensured Guyana had no one capable of helping the country.
As a result, Dr. Mangal said he advocated for a new entity, the Department of Energy, which was to be a home for those qualified oil and gas professionals who would be hired. “But sadly, the new department did not follow the plan, which I drafted with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It is headed by someone (Dr. Mark Bynoe) who has no oil and gas experience, and they have not hired (the full complement of) oil and gas professionals with the required experience,” Dr. Mangal noted.
Further to this, the former Presidential Advisor cautioned that Guyana cannot succeed as a country without the right people on its side. Considering the fact that the Energy Department has hired an ExxonMobil lobbyist to revise Guyana’s laws, Dr. Mangal said it is clear the Coalition government does not want to hire the right people. He said, “They are letting the very companies we need to regulate dictate the country’s business. This is a recipe for failure. And as you can see, we are failing.”
Dr. Mangal argued that Guyana is actually becoming the next failed oil state while noting that this is exactly what the oil companies like, a weak country, preferably with an illegitimate government. He opined too that they want a country, which does not regulate the companies, but gives the companies a free reign.
Dr. Mangal said that Guyana’s leaders already gave away US$55 billion of the people’s wealth with the lopsided Stabroek Block Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) and by allowing an ExxonMobil lobbyist to take charge of Guyana’s legislative and regulatory framework, he opined that more value will be given away.
The 40 year relationship between ExxonMobil and the American law firm was first raised by British news agency, The Guardian and subsequently picked up by a German Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called Urgewald. The NGO questioned how Guyana’s authorities, with a straight face, could allow an ExxonMobil affiliate to write the nation’s laws when those very laws would be used to regulate Exxon and many of its subcontractors. Urgewald also questioned the World Bank’s role in the matter. The World Bank has given Guyana a US$20M loan of which US$1.2M is being used to pay Hunton, Andrews, Kurth to rewrite the nation’s laws.
Urgewald said that an investigation is needed forthwith as the use of an ExxonMobil sub-contractor to write laws for the country is an affront to genuine efforts to bring rigid governance frameworks into being.
Despite being shown told of the foregoing, Guyana’s authorities have failed to drop all ties with the Virginia-based law firm and return to the drawing board.
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