May 22, 2022 News
“…with a contract, you have to sign it and the terms in that contract govern how your behaviour is monitored, so the lack of signature in this, because this all forms part of the permission that will be granted thereafter, if they don’t sign all those technical studies and (responses), the whole thing is out. The only thing they will be governed on is the Environmental Permit…”
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) forms the foundation for a Permit to be granted to a developer by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for specific projects to be pursued.
The document is intended to clearly outline the risks a project can cause and state measures that will be taken to mitigate or respond to such events. Given the important nature of the document, project developers are required to affix their signature/s to guarantee that they not only accept the environmental study, but more importantly, its findings and assurances for response activities. By attaching their signatures, it legally ties the company to accept liabilities caused as a result of the listed impacts, likely to be caused.
However, by refusing to sign these studies, liabilities are transferred to the Consultant that prepared the project, whose signatures are attached to the document. This is according to Former Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams.
Adams in an invited comment explained to this publication that while he was heading the EPA, ExxonMobil was mandated to attach its signatures to the EIA, as this is the global practice.
He explained that as Head of the regulator body, Exxon had submitted an EIA which he refused to accept, as it was not signed.
“I packed up the stuff and I said I am not accepting it without your signature, and what he (Former Country Manager, Rod Henson) told me, he said well you know that’s the way that the EPA does it, which is for Liza One, because I wasn’t there for Liza One. So I said I really don’t care how the EPA has been doing it and I said you know that you can’t do this in the United States for example, and he said yes Vince I know that, but this is the way that they want it, and I said this is not the way that I want it so you better change it. I packed up the volumes in a box, sent it back to him and immediately he signed it for Exxon and sent it back,” Dr. Adams shared.
This newspaper was unable to verify that the signature of the oil company was attached to the Liza Two EIA, however, the impact study for its third project, Payara, was signed by Exxon’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEGPL) Country Manager, Alistair Routledge in July 2020.
Explaining the significance of ExxonMobil not attaching its company signature to the EIA, Dr. Adams said, “What you are doing here, you are just transferring liabilities. You can always blame the Consultants but it’s your project.”
He argued that this regulation was one of several that was reversed after he was removed from the agency.
“This is another example where they have reverted to what they used to do before. This is a typical example and obviously if I was there, it wouldn’t happen and the thing is that Exxon knows fully well that they shouldn’t be doing this. This is an absolute breach of the best practices and they admitted that this here is only what Guyana wants,” the former EPA Head added.
The issue of the developer’s signature being absent on this critical document was first highlighted by an attorney, Elizabeth Hughes, who had made her views public at a consultation hosted by EEPGL on the proposed Gas-to-Energy project.
Hughes was asked to weigh-in on the subject from a legal perspective. According to her, the Environmental Protection Act requires the developer to sign the EIA, specifically at Section 11(10) which states: “The developer and the person carrying out the environmental impact assessment shall submit the environmental impact assessment together with an environmental impact statement to the Agency…”
She went on to explain that because the EIA lists possible project impacts and outlines measures to be taken by the developer in the event of such an occurrence, it is imperative for the document to be signed by the company that submitted the application.
She pointed out, “…with a contract, you have to sign it and the terms in that contract govern how your behaviour is monitored, so the lack of signature in this, because this all forms part of the permission that will be granted thereafter, if they don’t sign all those technical studies and (responses), the whole thing is out. The only thing they will be governed on is the Environmental Permit…hence my agitation about this at a very deep level because it’s a lack of adherence to the country’s norms.”
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