Mar 03, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – If an oil spill is to occur right now on Guyana’s shores, our country would sink into debt because of our inability to obtain written evidence that the operators in the Stabroek Block; ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC/NEXEN will accept full liability of any ensuing costs.
What Guyana currently has is an “assurance” from the local subsidiary, ExxonMobil Guyana that the parent companies will do such. But this is not enough – it has been over a year since the company made that commitment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Kaieteur News had reported extensively on this very issue, raising the concern that Guyana remains unprotected should an oil disaster strike. The paper later reached out to Exxon’s Government and Public Affairs Advisor, Janelle Persaud via email on February 18, 2020 to ascertain whether the company has stuck to its commitment and provided evidence to Government that Guyana has comprehensive oil disaster coverage from the parent companies.
Persaud gave a reply on March 1, 2020, but oil giant’s spokeswoman dodged the question with the response provide no indication of such.
“The Stabroek Block co-venturers have secured comprehensive insurance for our petroleum activities. Under the existing legal framework and agreements with the government, there are extensive assurances of our commitments, including environmental protection measures to respond to operational incidents,” the answer stated.
“Beyond this,” she said, Exxon is “committed to environmental performance excellence. Our goal is to prevent incidents that would have a negative impact to the environment. Prevention of environmental issues is our number one priority. However, we also prepare and practice emergency response in case of unlikely events such as an oil spill.”
Further on the oil giant stated “We employ robust preventative and mitigating mechanisms including advanced technology; vigilant maintenance; robust health and safety measures; ongoing risk management and effective emergency preparedness.”
The reader should note that nowhere in the company’s retort does it state that it will provide “assurances” in writing so as to ensure that Guyana does not bear the costs should any disaster occur.
And while the company boasts of being “committed environmental performance excellence”, it is no stranger to oil spills.
There was the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil spill, said to be one of the most devastating man-made disasters in the world. The Exxon-Valdez oil tanker ran into a reef in Alaska causing more than 10 million gallons of oil to cloak the Alaska coastline. The spill killed thousands of whales, seabirds and other marine life. The tourism and fishing industries were devastated for years.
It was the then Director of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams, that included in the Environmental Permits for Exxon’s Liza Two and Payara projects, a provision that safeguards Guyana from accepting liability from any disasters.
That provision would also be included in all other permits not only for Exxon, but other oil companies.
However, it was not included in the permit for Liza One. And while the EPA now under the control of Sharifa Razack has the authority to amend the permit, it has made no move to do so, leaving Guyana at further risk.
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