– says company opposed to paying US$3,000 fine for environmental breaches
By Kiana Wilburg
Since it started oil production in the Stabroek Block, ExxonMobil has had six fluid spills, three of which occurred this year.
Albeit small in nature, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams, said he is deeply concerned about the “dangerous signal” these spills send about ExxonMobil’s safety culture and its approach towards addressing environmental infractions.
During an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News, Dr. Adams noted that the company was fined $100,000 (US$500) for each incident, bringing the total payment to $600,000 (US$3,000).
But what has left him disappointed and more so appalled is the company’s opposition to paying the paltry fine. Dr. Adams noted that the company has sought to make a case to underpin its resistance as it noted that the spills of hydraulic fluid was negligible and therefore had no significant impact on the environment.
“They are making a case using that argument about the spills being small but that’s not my business…We are maintaining our position that they have to pay up. Our position is grounded in the law which says zero emissions and zero discharges and if they refuse to comply, we will go to court,” the EPA head insisted.
Turning his attention to the cause of the spills, Dr. Adams said they occurred due to ExxonMobil’s failure to follow basic manufacturer’s guidelines for a hose on the vessel.
Dr. Adams said that the instructions are clear on having an inspection done before use, He added that it was not done.
He said, too, that ExxonMobil is in breach of its permit which states that it has to follow the manufacturers’ guidelines.
The EPA head said: “…What these spills tell me about ExxonMobil’s conduct of operations mindset is very worrisome. If you are not following basic instructions, how could the EPA trust that for more high risk situations, you are not going to do the same thing and leave the country with a disaster on its hands?”
What is equally troubling for the official is the fact that the American company is refusing to accept that its “lackadaisical attitude” could be a potential harm for the way it does business here.
Further to this, Dr. Adams said that the situation with ExxonMobil reminds him of the Piper Alpha incident which led to the death of over 100 offshore workers. For those who are not familiar with this event, Dr. Adams noted that Piper Alpha is an offshore oil and gas platform that suffered an explosion in July 1988.
It is still regarded as the worst offshore oil disaster in the history of the UK as it killed 165 out of 226 crew members along with two crew members from a standby vessel.
This newspaper understands that the primary cause of the accident was ruled to be human error. International news reports note that after the removal of one of the gas condensate pump pressure safety valves for maintenance, the condensate pipe remained temporarily sealed with a blind flange as the work was not completed during the day shift.
Unaware of the maintenance being carried out on one of the pumps, a night crew turned on the alternate pump. Following this, the blind flange, including firewalls, failed to handle the pressure, leading to several explosions.
“So as you can see, the Piper Alpha incident was clear case of a failure to maintain high safety procedures. And it comes back to my point about your operations mindset and in this case with ExxonMobil, it failed to follow the fundamentals for the safe and proper use of one of the parts on the vessel,” the EPA Head expressed.
When he examines the opposition to paying the paltry fines as well as the company’s “lackadaisical attitude” on following the basics, Dr. Adams said he is left to wonder what ExxonMobil’s posture would be towards the country should there be a more catastrophic situation to deal with.
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