Jul 30, 2021 News
By Carlos Gonsalves
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) undertaking of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited has been, at times, irrational and improper and does not comply fully with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1996. This is according to the written submissions that were sent to the EPA as part of the public consultation process for the proposed gas-to-energy project by Ms. Simone Mangal-Joly, a distinguished Guyanese environmentalist.
In her written submissions, Ms. Mangal highlighted a number of concerns relating to various aspects of the gas-to-energy project. The most crucial of these concerns relate to a misuse of the power conferred upon the Environmental Protection Agency by the Environmental Protection Act 1996 and include: the approval of the site for the NGL plant which appears inconsistent with the relevant law; the fragmentation of the gas-to-energy project into multiple projects by the EPA that each individually requires an EIA; the refusal of the EPA to grant the general public access to the Project application; and the attempt of the EPA to filter or limit public input and query during the consultation process. The latter two concerns highlighted will be discussed in detail in a subsequent article as the focus of this article is on the first two concerns.
NGL plant site approval inconsistent with the law
Ms. Mangal’s first point of contention in her written submission states that, “According to the Government of Guyana’s public releases and EEPGL’s Project Description, the project site will be the Wales Estate, which will also host associated downstream industries. The establishment of an industrial estate requires an Environmental Permit and will certainly require an EIA given the planned cluster of heavy polluting industries.”
She further opines that since no application for an Environmental Permit is in sight for the proposed project location, it is improper for the EPA to embark on an EIA for the NGL subcomponent of the gas-to-energy project and asserts that by undertaking an EIA, the EPA “is demonstrating preliminary support for EEPGL’s application, which is procedurally unfair as an EIA has not been submitted to support development consent for [Wales Development Zone] and no public hearing has been held as required by the Act.”
In defense of her position, the environmentalist cites Section 14 of the Environmental Protection Act, which specifies: “a public authority shall not give development consent in any matter where an environmental authorisation is required unless such authorisation has been issued and any development consent given by any public authority shall be subject to the terms of the environmental authorisation issued by the Agency.” In concluding that it is improper for the EPA to entertain EEPGL’s application in this circumstance, she concluded that the Central Government had declared that it had approved the Wales Development without first obtaining an environmental permit for same.
The fragmentation of the gas-to-energy project
Ms. Mangal’s second point of contention relates to the fragmented approach taken by the EPA to the conduct of an EIA. She opines that the Act does not permit an Applicant, Applicants, or the EPA to dismember a project into subcomponents and embark on EIAs for those subcomponents as though they were stand-alone projects. She further highlights that this is mandated in Section 11(5)(a)(1) which indicates that an EIA must address the “whole project”, that is, its full impact footprint: “Every environmental impact assessment shall contain the following information (a) a description of the project, including in particular (i) the geographical area involved and the physical characteristics of the whole project and the land use requirements…”
EEPGL’s project summary states inter alia that, “the power plant and further distribution is not included in the scope of this application, except for its consideration when addressing cumulative impacts for the Project.”
Ms. Mangal notes that the Act does not permit the EPA or any other party to use the developer as a criterion for defining the scope of a project and that the litmus test for determining a project scope is whether the component can exist on its own, which the NGL plant obviously cannot.
It is further highlighted that the plant would accept and process gas and must be able to operate in a steady state between supply intake and demand & waste outflow as the EEPGL is not stock piling dry gas or natural gas liquids. Therefore, without a clearly defined offtake, she asserts that the EEPGL must stop the flow and flare offshore as the NGL plant cannot function without the outflow to the demand component. Consequently, she again asserts that the Project Scope must encompass how the NGLs will be moved offsite to their market destinations as the port and transport network would have to be considered part of the project, because the NGL plant cannot operate without them. The demand segment is part of the “whole project.”
This aids Ms. Mangal in concluding that, “In exercising discretion outside of its power for defining a project scope, the EPA has acted contrary to the Act’s requirement for the “whole project” to form the subject of an EIA. The EPA cannot jettison the power plant and the NGL’s demand side infrastructure into a separate EIA process and treat with them as “cumulative” impacts of distinctly different projects.”
She notes that, “this defeats the purpose of an EIA as set out in the Act. Consequently, both the project description and scope are woefully deficient. The current EIA process is futile.”
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