Oct 30, 2020 News
A win for Guyana…
Kaieteur News – A High Court order issued earlier this month has brought ExxonMobil’s Liza I environmental permit in conformity with the law.
The order, granted by Justice Jo Ann Barlow, has effectively reduced Exxon’s environmental permit from 20+-years to five- the correct time as prescribed by law.
The matter was settled in court following an initial hearing of the case filed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by Guyanese scientist and the former President of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI), Dr. Troy Thomas.
According to a release issued yesterday, both the EPA and Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd (ExxonMobil’s local operating subsidiary in Guyana) agreed to limit the permit to five years, as provided by law.
As a result, an order was issued for Exxon’s permit in the Liza 1 oil field development to expire in the next 18 months instead of 2040 —24 years after the issuance originally granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In his lawsuit filed last August, Dr. Thomas noted that the permits issued to Esso violated the EPA’s Regulation 19, which specifically cites the limits to the issuance of permits to five years after which it is subject to review before a fresh one is granted to the oil operators to ensure that their exploration activities are keeping with the laws that protect the environment.
According to the court documents, Dr. Thomas pointed out that the protracted permit is not only illegal but exposes Guyana and the rest of the world to serious, if not irreparable, harm and adverse environmental consequences.
Since its oil lifting operations began in December 2019, Exxon’s Liza 1 operation has flared more than 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas… emissions which are toxic to the environment.
In yesterday’s release, lawyer and environmental advocate, Melinda Janki, disclosed that by virtue of the ruling, Guyanese people will have an opportunity in just over 18 months’ time, to correct ExxonMobil’s environmental permit for Liza 1.
“The earlier expiry of the permit means Esso-the subsidiary will have to apply for another environmental permit in 2022, giving the public an opportunity to demand better terms for Guyana,” she said.
As such, she explained the order made by the High Court also reduced the Liza II environmental permit to five years.
“That permit will expire in 2024 and not 2043 as in the initial permit issued by the EPA. The environmental permits for Liza I and Liza II have already been revised to conform to applicable law. The Payara environmental permit of 24th September 2020 was issued for five years in conformity with the law,” Janki said in the statement.
Meanwhile, lead Counsel for the case against the oil company, Seenath Jairam S.C, noted that “Coming up against an oil and gas giant is always guaranteed to be a battle royal because of their deep pockets and long history in fossil fuels.”
Mr. Jairam said, too, that while the EPA was ably represented, the law is pellucid regarding the duration of an environmental permit and for good reason.
“Our environment is our most precious resource and the lawmakers obviously intended that the EPA should have an opportunity at regular intervals to assess the suitability of an operator to continue operations, using international best practices. Dr. Troy Thomas is to be commended and complimented for his conscientiousness and public spiritedness in drawing attention to these environmental matters,” lawyer added.
Janki, who was among the team representing Dr. Thomas, noted too that while the Environmental Protection Act Cap 20:05 guarantees citizens’ rights to information and participation in the environmental impact assessments that are a pre-condition to environmental permits, “Successive governments have given away Guyana’s oil.”
“We must not allow them to destroy Guyana’s rich marine resources as well. Guyana has strong environmental laws to protect the nation against dangerous oil and gas,” she said adding: “It is clear that the people cannot rely on the government or the so-called conservation organisations in Guyana to protect Guyana’s rich biodiversity.”
The lawyer suggested that “Guyana’s future depends on individuals who are willing and patriotic enough to step forward as Dr. Thomas has done.”
Dr. Troy Thomas also commented on the ruling. He stressed that: “The Guyanese people have loudly and repeatedly expressed their concern and anger at the danger that ExxonMobil’s oil production poses to Guyana’s environment and natural resources. I want people to know that we can and should take action to protect our national patrimony. We need to come together and safeguard the future for our children,” he said in the release.
Thomas was represented by Seenath Jairam SC, Melinda Janki and Pratesh Satram, attorneys-at-law. The EPA was represented by Ms Anessa Chow, while Esso was represented by Andrew Pollard, SC.
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