Latest update March 20th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 06, 2023 News
…call them “hypocrites disguising as environmentalists”
Kaieteur News – Amid mounting calls for this country to be more prudent in its stewardship of the oil and gas industry, Guyana’s top political leaders have likened local advocates championing a better deal for citizens as hypocrites, insisting that they will not budge and will continue their programme.
Following the signing of the lopsided contract between the Guyana Government and ExxonMobil, Guyanese at home and abroad have been calling for a renegotiation of the deal to secure greater benefits for citizens. And although while in opposition the PPP/C Government had promised to renegotiate the contract, which was signed by the APNU+AFC Government, once it got into government it has changed its tune.
Speaking at a sod turning ceremony last Friday for the construction of a new stadium at Palmyra, President Irfaan Ali said “hypocrites” is the ideal term to define Guyanese who have been critical of his government’s management of the oil and gas sector and its stewardship of the environment. He claimed that environmentalists who have sought to steer his government in the right direction are attempting to “poison and stop the blooming petroleum sector in the country.”
President Ali spoke just after his Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo who insisted that such persons with “ulterior motives” should stop hiding behind the titles such as environmentalists and biologists. He said: “It’s not easy dealing with those who want to sap our energy in negativity. It is not easy trying to deliver them from their ignorance especially when they are deliberately ignorant because they have an ulterior motive. If you have a political ambition, announce it, and come in the political arena. Don’t hide under different faces. You must be honest to tell the people what your true intentions are.”
The President said the People’s Progressive Party and his government believe in this principle and have outlined its intentions clearly in its Manifesto. “We stated how we are gonna bring back agriculture, how we gonna save the farmers and every single one of our commitments, we have stayed true to – every single one of our commitments we have delivered to you. We are not con artists,” he noted.
He went on to tell those gathered at the event: “make no mistake, this is not a government of con artists but I know many of them out there who disguise themselves in all kinds of ways – environmentalists, biologist, propagandists – all forms they come in. Very important point, imagine someone calling themselves a patriot and going to a court to stop you from the revenue that belongs to you the people of Guyana in the oil and gas sector.”
Ali said Guyanese have even gone as far to write the country’s neighbours to say they must stop Guyana from producing its oil, due to the potential dangers of an oil spill. The President argued however that these same neighbouring states have developed their petroleum sector for 100 years. “They call themselves patriots and lovers of our country. They are nothing short of being hypocrites! Nothing short of being hypocrites and let me be very clear, there is no government in this region who has the environmental credentials of this government.”
The President said the PPP came back to office in 2020 after leaving a Low carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which was abandoned by the former administration. He was keen to share with the Berbice crowd that this Programme is now earning the country revenue for its forests.
But while Guyana has earned its title as a carbon sink, meaning it takes out more carbon dioxide than it produces, the oil sector has been moving at a rapid pace in the absence of full liability coverage. Presently, approximately 360,000 barrels per day is being produced offshore in the Stabroek Block at the Liza One and Two fields. A third project, Payara, will also startup this year, adding another 220,000 barrels per day.
Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), the operator of the Stabroek Block has committed US$600 million in insurance for each project it develops. This however has been deemed a meagre amount considering the losses experienced by other oil producing states when a spill occurred.
To this end, the parent company ExxonMobil is required to supply a parent company guarantee in accordance with the Permit it received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After more than three years, this provision is yet to be adhered to. It is intended to subject the parent company to cover any expenses above the capped insurance policy. This newspaper has reported that ExxonMobil had beat down a US$5 billion Court judgment for fishermen to US$507 million following a 50-million-barrel oil spill 1989 in Alaska, United States.
In February, members of a civil society group wrote to Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister (PM), Dr. Keith Rowley, putting him on guard about the potential oil spill dangers of Guyana’s offshore projects. The letter which was signed by Alfred Bhulai, Andre Brandli, Janette Bulkan, Darshanand Khusial, Mike Persaud, and Charles Sugrim—all of whom are members of the Oil and Gas Governance Network (OGGN)—was issued on February 8, 2023 to the PM’s office.
The OGGN members were keen to note that they are concerned citizens of Guyana and inhabitants of the Caribbean. They stressed that Guyana’s oil reserves, totalling some 11 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources in the Stabroek Block, underpin grave oil spill concerns for Caribbean citizens.
What is also troubling for them is that ExxonMobil Corporation, through its subsidiary, EEPGL, currently plans to drill 158 wells in six oil fields by 2030 in the southeast corner of the Stabroek tract alone.
“Prime Minister, we enclose the map prepared by ERM, the consultancy firm that has conducted all but one of Exxon’s Environmental Impact Assessments to date in Guyana. That map shows that the northwesterly currents of the Guyana territorial sea would push even a small oil spill to the eastern coasts of Trinidad and Tobago. Even a small oil spill would spoil the Caribbean Sea and threaten the livelihoods of fishers and the tourism industry, not to mention the harms to marine life and ecosystems,” the OGGN members wrote. In light of the foregoing and other critical points listed by the group, they urged PM Rowley urge the governments of the Caribbean to evaluate the scale, intensity and risks posed to the entire Caribbean by the ongoing high velocity oil exploration and production in Guyana’s waters. “We hope you will assess the deeply inequitable and neo-colonial arrangements between the government of Guyana and petroleum companies, in which the public wealth of Guyana is privatized and negative environmental harms to both Guyana and the Caribbean are socialized,” the members wrote.
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