Nov 01, 2020 News
– Encourages Guyanese to push for good environmental stewardship
Kaieteur News – International lawyer, Melinda Janki, told Kaieteur News that the ruling of the High Court, bringing Exxon’s Liza-1 environmental permit into conformity with the law, is very important because it shows that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ExxonMobil are subject to Guyana’s laws.
“That’s a win for the people of Guyana. This was a public interest case to protect Guyana.” Janki told Kaieteur News in an invited comment.
Former President of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc., Dr Troy Thomas, had brought the issue to the court, arguing that the permit was granted for a duration exceeding the five-year limit provided for in law. The court’s ruling, by Justice Joanne Barlow, has brought forward the expiry of the permit from 2040 to 2021, at which point, Exxon will require a new permit to continue its operations at the Liza-1 project.
The Liza-1 is the first in line of projects for off-shore production projects by ExxonMobil and its partners.
It started production late last year.
In this regard, like the Oil & Gas Governance Network (OGGN)’s Darshanand Khusial, Janki noted that the ruling of the court gives citizens opportunities now to
demand better from the EPA and the Government for the management of the sector.
“The law does not allow the EPA to ignore people and do what the EPA wants instead.” Janki explained. “So let us have people across the country, across the political divide, taking action to protect themselves and their children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours, communities and their livelihoods.”
The need for the public to be involved in the environmental stewardship of the petroleum industry is grounded in the fact that risks from oil production impact their lives.
Janki said that there are two “massively dangerous threats” from oil and gas production.
An oil spill, Janki said, “could exterminate marine life over hundreds of square miles. That would be the end of Guyana’s fisheries. Just look at the BP Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and the devastation it caused. That was 4.1 million barrels of oil, but even a small spill can be devastating. The Exxon Valdez spilled about 260,000 barrels and devastated Prince William Sound in Alaska…30 years later, the area has not recovered.”
Oil spills have caused some of the worst and most lasting disasters in modern history. What is left for the EPA, according to Janki, is to do its job and ensure the laws are followed, as they already prohibit pollution. She said the regulator has not been doing its job.
The other danger Janki mentioned, is the greenhouse effect. This is a natural process which involves a delicate balancing act between the radiation coming into and leaving the earth’s atmosphere. This balancing act is tipped over when increasing levels of greenhouse gases, much of which is caused by oil production, is released into the atmosphere, resulting in global warming.
“When you burn fossil fuels you emit greenhouse gases that sit in the atmosphere and stop heat from escaping.” Janki explained. “The earth’s temperature has already increased by 1.10C and we are seeing massive storms, floods, coral bleaching, fires across the Arctic, Africa, Americas, Australia. Guyana’s environmental laws already require the EPA to take into account the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate, the ocean, ecosystems, everything. Again the problem is that the EPA is not doing its job as the regulator.”
Exxon’s flaring at its Liza-1operation has threatened Guyana’s place as a carbon sink, and as a good environmental steward. Janki said that it is illegal, and that she has written about that to the EPA.
She hopes more persons will come forward to protect Guyana from the dangers of oil and gas development.
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