Jul 28, 2022 News
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – The Opposition’s motion on full liability coverage for oil spills may have been defeated in the National Assembly, but the fight will not end there.
This is the pledge of Shadow Oil and Gas Minister, David Patterson, who had tabled the motion in Parliament since February 16 of this year seeking to not only include full liability coverage in the event of an oil spill, but also order a study on the possible ill effects that can be caused by such a disaster.
In an interview with this newspaper on Wednesday, the Member of Parliament (MP) said, “I intend to keep at it. I was asking my team what can be done because I intend to bring it up back again in a different form at some point in time,” Patterson related. He explained that the National Assembly is expected to head into recess on August 10 and reconvene in October. As such, the former Minister of Public infrastructure noted that it is likely for a new motion on full liability coverage to be ready by then.
In addition to pushing for oil spill coverage from the Opposition end, Patterson pointed out that it was very important for civil society bodies to also play a role. To this end, he encouraged greater activism on their part. Importantly, he noted that with two new oil finds in the Stabroek Block, offshore Guyana, he is confident that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government would continue to approve more projects, all without proper safeguards in place.
“I am going to keep pushing it in Parliament. With two additional oil finds, this government mean that they are going to approve it without anything…so there are various angles I can take on this new Motion but I haven’t worked out exactly which I will take on it,” he reasoned. It was only on Tuesday that ExxonMobil announced two new discoveries offshore at the Seabob and Kiru-Kiru sites, bringing the total oil discoveries to 33 so far.
In the meantime, the Opposition MP signaled that a new Motion on the dumping of waste water into the ocean will be submitted in the new week. On the other hand, he also pointed to the “almost vulgar” behaviour of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, explaining that very few Opposition Motions are allowed and when they are, the documents are well trimmed.
Patterson argued, “He always cuts my Motion takes an extremely long time to approve it. This (liability) Motion went in before Yellowtail was even approved, so he is an enabler for the government and these guys (ExxonMobil) cause before he even approves it or anything happens they delay it.”
Additionally, he told Kaieteur News, “I have heard that how he would have to send my Motions to the PPP and then they would tell him what and what they want in, and out, and I am sure that happens so I am not pleased. I know that how there was a no-confidence Motion on him in March under Joe Harmon and we have been pushing for that to be resubmitted because it is almost very vulgar how he behaves.”
The MP said he believes the Speaker takes his time so that the PPP are allowed enough time to doctor his submissions to the House, in order to only discuss what they prefer. “He gives them time so that the most like say impactful stuff, they would need time to fix it. They held it back so they didn’t had a debate before Liza One was renewed. They are touting that they improved it but they deliberately held it back so that they could approve all the projects then allow this Motion,” he said.
It was on Thursday evening that Patterson’s Motion finally took the spotlight after 154 days since it was first laid in the National Assembly.
In voting against the motion, government MPs argued that the document was meant to drive investors away; that it could increase the cost of an oil development; that no investor in their right mind would agree to such a policy and that it is normal for there to be risks in any development. It was the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat that led the arguments against the Motion. He said that the administration is aware of how devastating an oil spill can be; hence provisions have been made to ensure such an activity does not occur. Even if it does, he assured that the oil company has been required to import a capping stack to lay on standby, in the event of such an occurrence. A capping stack is a piece of equipment that is used to place over a blown out well as a cap to prevent further damage that may have been caused.
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