Jul 28, 2022 News
– Former EPA Head accuses Govt of deliberately keeping documents from citizens
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dr. Vincent Adams believes that the Government of Guyana is deliberately keeping documents supporting better insurance coverage from ExxonMobil out of the public’s domain and has thus called on involved parties to confirm their participation at meetings in this regard under the previous administration.
Adams is urging the Bank of Guyana and the Insurance Association of Guyana participants who engaged in discussions toward securing oil spill liability coverage for Guyana to come forward and speak up. The former EPA head was again responding to government’s claims that no information currently exists within its relevant agencies to show that efforts were in the making to have ExxonMobil and its partners provide a collective US$2.5B liability sum that ensured better protection against any possible oil spill at the Stabroek Block.
Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat insisted last Thursday during the debate on the David Patterson-sponsored motion on full liability coverage, that to date the government has been “unsuccessful” in finding the document claiming to have secured the full coverage.
He told the National Assembly that “based on our checks there is no such document,” and that none could be found at the EPA, the Natural Resources Ministry or the Department of Energy located at Brickdam. As such, Bharrat appealed to the opposition member to share the documents with the government since they have expressed a willingness to work with the administration and develop the oil sector. He even suggested that the documents may have been removed from EPA and could be with the former CEO (Adams). “So if the document is with the former head of the agency well then we would love to see that document… we would love to see how far the negotiations went and we would love to see all that took place towards moving to $5B insurance for oil spills,” the minister submitted.
Adams insisted however, that it is dishonest of the government to continuous claim that no evidence of such work is available when key agencies such as the Bank of Guyana and the Insurance Association of Guyana were involved. He explained that these discussions took place when Exxon’s in country Manager, Rod Henson was still leading the company here. The former EPA boss reiterated that at the time, the Stabroek Block partners were working on a draft to show how it was going to cover the oil spill liability. They had to come up with the policy and bring it to the EPA to determine whether it was adequate. He said in providing the US$2.5B, the company was also asked to provide parent guarantee to ensure that the country was covered beyond any spill costing more than the mentioned sum. Adams continued that Exxon did not want to accept the request for additional coverage; stating that it wasn’t necessary. He said that there was much back and forth over the coverage where at one point; the Exxon head and suggested having the company president speak with Guyana’s president since the EPA was holding firm for the complete coverage.
It was not until the EPA boss mentioned expensive oil spills in other countries that the company agreed to provide the details of how the coverage was going to be provided. “But it was never finalised,” Adams said, as his services to the EPA were terminated. Adams said nonetheless that during the several months of negotiations between the EPA lawyers and the oil companies for full liability coverage, he was regularly briefed by the EPA’s legal team and was fully aware of what was happening. Meetings regarding this liability coverage were held in the office of BoG Governor Gobin Ganga since the Bank plays a supervisory role for some categories of insurance. Adams said representatives of the insurance association such as Bish Panday came into play after questions arose about the insurance policy being outside the country. Adams noted that the parties, which also included the then Director of Enetry Dr. Mark Bynoe and EPA’s Legal Officer at the time, Mr. Saeed Hamid, were discussing too, how to legally transfer the insurance policy to Guyana. With this, Adams questioned, “How then can they (government) say that there is no evidence of this.” He insisted that there were other persons involved in his full coverage discussion and believes that the government is “deliberately keeping the information away from the public.”
Not how I operate
Adams also took umbrage to the Natural Resources Minister’s assertion that he may have removed documents from the EPA. “That is not how I operate,” Adams asserted. “Had I known this is how they operate I should have kept a copy of some of the information so they would stop trying to fool the people.” Adams explained, that as a professional holding high-security jobs in the United States: “that is not how we operate.” He said state agents are not allowed to conduct their work on their personal computers. As such, the former EPA head said he did not keep his work in his personal possession and does not have the information relating to the particular issue. The former CEO has charged nonetheless that the former Exxon country manager must state that the discussions were not had. “I want Rob Henson to deny that was happening.” Outside of the work of the legal team, Adams said he personally engaged Henson on the matter and he too could attest to the negotiations. Adams has urged the government to “get serious about protecting the country.” He reiterated that while they continue to deny the move toward full liability coverage, the “language” involving parent company coverage for instance is currently in the Liza 2 permit and every one that came after. The problem, Adams claimed, is that the EPA continues to issue permits without the oil companies fulfilling their obligations under the approval.
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