Sep 27, 2020 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Even though the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration is set to grant Exxonmobil approval for its third development project called Payara, international lawyer, Melinda Janki, is categorically stating that such a move would be reckless when one considers the environmental implications.
During an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Janki articulated that Payara is one of the most dangerous new oil projects on the planet. Expounding further, she noted that ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), wants to drill 45 wells going about two miles below the sea-bed.
In her view, the oil is under dangerously massive pressure. She stressed that just one small mistake, and a well blowout could destroy Guyana’s entire fisheries and the blue economies of the Caribbean.
Further to this, Janki pointed out that Payara’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) admits that a spill could see oil ending up in Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea and islands as far as Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In this regard, the lawyer noted that Guyana could end up with no seafood and a massive billion dollar bill for compensation from its neighbours.
Janki added: “The environmental impact would be devastating, wiping out breeding grounds, habitats and marine life – shrimp, fish, turtles, whales, sea birds, everything in the vicinity.”
Taking the foregoing into account, the lawyer said there is no way that the Government of Guyana can approve Payara without fully informing and consulting Guyana’s Caribbean neighbours.
“That’s basic international law that has to be respected and should not be circumvented by any political leader,” she retorted.
In conclusion, the transparency advocate stressed that neither the environmental permit nor should the field development plan be approved by the government since the severe danger it poses to Guyana and the Caribbean has not been addressed. To do otherwise, she said, would be tantamount to oil undermining the rule of law.
On Friday last, Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, had told Kaieteur News that the government and ExxonMobil are very close to signing off on the Payara Field Development Plan.
In fact, he told this newspaper yesterday that the parties involved were working to get it done before today. Up to press time, there was no confirmation on whether the deal was wrapped up or not.
Minister Bharrat said that the current agreement has several safeguards in place, two of which include stiff fines for the burning of gas and failure to treat reservoir water before disposing of it into the ocean.
Asked for a ballpark figure of the fines, Minister Bharrat said that this is still being finalized. He was keen to note, however, that the findings of the Payara Field Development review would be released next week.
That exercise was initially started by UK firm, Bayphase Oil and Gas Consultants and continued by former Premier of Alberta, Canada, Alison Redford. The PPP government had said that Redford was hired thanks to a grant from the Canadian High Commission. Her team consisted of the former Deputy Minister of Energy in Newfoundland, Canada; senior
international reservoir engineers; and Mr. Jay Park, Q.C, Managing Partner of Park Energy Law based in Canada and the United Kingdom.
When the review got underway in August, Kaieteur News would have reported that one of the critical issues that stymied swift approval pertained to ExxonMobil’s desire to retain the loopholes it got in the Liza One and Two permits which allow for flaring.
The other matter of concern pertains to the dumping of produced water into the ocean. When oil companies drill the sea floor to extract oil, it is not only oil that comes up with it; water is part of the mixture too. As a result of it not being needed, it is separated and disposed of.
The critical issue is how that disposal is being done. International best practices dictate that this produced water should be re-injected into the earth’s surface. Research conducted by Kaieteur News notes that in some cases, the produced water is discharged into oceans and other offshore water channels. Because no two geographic regions are alike, studies are done to assess the environmental risks of the produced water’s toxicity on marine life before granting approval for the disposal of it into the ocean.
In Guyana’s case, not a single study was done for the Liza Phase One or Two Projects, yet Guyana went full steam ahead with approving the permits for those projects, which allow for the disposal of produced water into the ocean.
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