Jun 24, 2021 News
Local activists tell Exxon shareholders…
By Kiana Wilburg
Kaieteur News – As part of their ongoing efforts to protect the environment for current and future generations, 30 Guyanese have reached out by way of letter to ExxonMobil’s shareholders, informing them of the “catastrophic oil spill potential” of the American company’s operations offshore Guyana.
In a letter to the shareholders, it was noted that Exxon is drilling in the Amazon-Orinoco Influence Zone, an area rich in marine biodiversity, with species that are rare, threatened or endemic. It was outlined that a well blowout would have a tragic impact on the region’s marine ecosystems. The activists also stated that it could destroy the livelihoods of people in Guyana and the Caribbean who depend on those ecosystems. It was at this point that the activists informed the shareholders that an unmitigated oil spill from ExxonMobil’s Payara project could reach as far as Jamaica. That project, scheduled for operation by 2024, will produce 220,000 barrels of oil per day.
This is also noted in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. That document was keen to note however that Jamaica is not the only nation that would be severely affected by an unmitigated oil spill from Guyana. Due to its location at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles, the EIA notes that Trinidad and Tobago is the only island that would have the potential to be affected by the transboundary effects of any unmitigated loss-of-well-control event, regardless of the season. It therefore means that at any point of the year, Trinidad and Tobago would be in grave danger if there is an oil spill offshore Guyana and it is not mitigated.
The EIA goes on to state that “the probability of oiling at least a portion of the coast of Trinidad and Tobago and/or its coastal waters is approximately 90 to 100 percent…”
It notes as well that Venezuela would suffer too. In this regard, the EIA states that the Spanish speaking nation has numerous marine turtle nesting beaches, mangroves, important bird areas, coral reefs, and shallow coastal lagoons that would be at risk of oiling. Additionally, the EIA highlights that numerous fishing areas are located east of Trinidad and could be impacted by a large unmitigated spill from a loss-of-well-control event.
Furthermore, the EIA underscores that the economies of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao are dependent on tourism to varying degrees but especially so in Bonaire, which is known internationally as a destination for recreational diving. With this in mind, it was stated that the economic effects of an oil spill on these countries would depend to a large degree on the extent to which these industries would be affected, and how rapidly they would recover. Either way, these nations are all at risk.
Other countries that could suffer devastating effects from a potential oil spill from ExxonMobil’s operations include Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The 30 Guyanese were keen to remind that in 2010, the Macondo well blowout had killed 11 people, devastated the Gulf of Mexico and cost British Petroleum (BP) over US$65B to clean up. They reminded too that the same blowout occurred in an area saturated with oil and gas infrastructure and oil spill response equipment and expertise.
They posited that Guyana, on the other hand, lacks the funds, equipment, personnel and experience to deal with a well blowout while adding that such a circumstance would be economically and environmentally catastrophic and have a comparable impact on shareholders’ investments in Exxon. What makes Guyana’s case even more concerning is the fact that it is without full coverage insurance for any of the projects being led by ExxonMobil in conjunction with its partners, Hess Corporation and CNOOC Petroleum Guyana Limited.
With this in mind, they urged Exxon shareholders via their detailed letter to ensure the oil giant discloses the following promptly and publicly: (1) The financial guarantees and assurances that Exxon has in place to cover the enormous response, recovery and remediation costs from an unplanned event such as a well blowout; (2) An updated risk assessment in light of Exxon’s use of faulty equipment and failure to follow proper procedures; (3) A risk mitigation strategy for a well blowout updated in light of the above systemic failures; (4) An updated oil spill response plan in light of Guyana’s continuing limited ability to take action to mitigate the impact of a well blow out; and (5) The total amount of gas that Exxon has flared since first oil.
The signatories to the letter include activist, Ramon Gaskin; Chartered Accountant and former Auditor-General of Guyana, Anand Goolsarran; Fred Collins, President of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc.; and Gerald Perreira of the Organisation for the Victory of the People. Other activists and stakeholders from academia, science, engineering, religious, business backgrounds have also joined the letter for action.
It was also endorsed by over 60 international organisations and individuals from Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United States of America, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, the Philippines, India, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
The letter was specifically addressed to The Coalition United for a Responsible Exxon (CURE), which represents a global spectrum of stakeholders focused on sustainability and committed to delivering long-term returns that account for the realities of a changing climate and energy sector. As of March 3, 2021, CURE brings together over 145 institutional members, who collectively represent approximately US$2.4 trillion in assets.
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