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Jul 26, 2022 News
– Former EPA boss challenges Gov’t
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dr. Vincent Adams is not buying the argument that the agency has not scrapped the work conducted under the 2019 World Bank US$1M grant which sought to significantly upgrade their oil and gas management and oversight capacity.
In fact, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is challenging the agency and the government to make public the information regarding the “highly trained” oil and gas specialists hired under the grant. Adams expressed reservations towards claims made in Parliament by Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat last Thursday since he insists that the project was booted after the change in administration. During his contribution against the Opposition motion for full liability coverage for oil spills, Minister Bharrat clarify that the EPA “never cancelled” the World Bank grant programme and that the department had in fact grew from three members of staff to 13 presently.
To further prove the continuance of the programme, he said that the current government even improved the capacity of the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) and has 24 hour physical presence on the FPSOs, despite this being a recommendation that was not adhered to under the last administration. Adams has nonetheless questioned the truth of the minister’s information because while he claims that 13 persons are now employed in the agency’s specific department, the World Bank programme catered for over 30 highly trained oil and gas professionals in petroleum engineering, geological engineering, waste management and the likes.
As such, Adams said “They (EPA) must show us where these 13 people fit into the specific positions; show us their qualifications and how they fit into the structure.” He reiterated that the World Bank grant came under a wider programme where the previous government secured a US$20m line of credit to empower various sections of the oil and gas oversight and management sectors. With his vast experience in oil and gas, and the only experienced petroleum engineer in the country at the time, Adams realised the mammoth task of preparing Guyana for its nascent energy sector and thus sought the grant to allow the EPA to set the “tone” for other state agencies. He told the newspaper that the necessary work had been completed under the grant including the organisational chart, the various positions and qualifications necessary. But according to him, the new government dismissed the programme and even staffers that were previously permitted to seek higher learning in oil and gas education here and abroad were denied that opportunity.
Adams has argued however, that the 13 members the Natural Resources minister spoke of is grossly inadequate compared to what he understands the growing oil sector is in need of. He pointed out that “that 13 have nothing to do with the Plan which had positions for highly specialised petroleum engineers, for example. Which of them meet any of those qualifications? Let them show you which positions these 13 filled in the plan for which they are qualified. Besides the EPA has lost many of its best employees since I left and they are just sending their own people to fill positions at EPA,” the former CEO alleged. He said from his information, the work environment has changed significantly and “the staff level is way down from the 120 when I left.”
Adams is also daring the government to make the information about the workers available since this newspaper had reported just a week before the minister made his announcement on the grant, that it contacted current EPA CEO, Khemraj Parsram seeking information on the said World Bank grant and was told that he was unsure about the availability of the document since it was not done during his tenure. Since he was also out of the country at the time, he promised to provide the requested information on his return. Adams believes the newspaper request, “caught them with their pants down, so they came up with this 13 member lie.” He added that where the GNBS claim is concerned, “it is absolutely mind boggling and embarrassing, though not surprising, that they would even be suggesting that the GNBS will be performing the functions of oversight prescribed in the EPA and World Bank Plan.”
He said “it is embarrassing that they do not even realise that the comparison of functions of the EPA and the GNBS are like night and day. The EPA provides regulatory and oversight functions including on site presence, while the GNBS determines standards and has nothing to do with oversight for which the EPA/WB Plan was designed.” These types of comments from the EPA are worrisome and expose the extent of its limited competencies in not even being able to understand its own basic functions and responsibilities, Adams charged.
The EPA has come in for a lot of criticisms after approving environmental permits for oil and gas operations that are said not to be in accordance with certain laws, rules and best international practices. The agency had been criticized for facilitating the oil companies ahead of Guyana’s interest and one such example includes the EPA adjusting environmental rules to allow extensive flaring aboard the Liza One FPSO. The short space of time the agency is taking to give environmental approval for massive oil and gas development, without a solid pack of in-house oil and gas professionals has also seen the agency being called out.
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