Latest update March 22nd, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 12, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – The world is riddled with the slippages and wreckages of what should have, could have, been done for better results. But which (should-a, could-a, would-a) never happened, and great devastations resulted in the end. On occasion, it is a cultural mindset, while at other times, the disasters that occur are due wholly and solely to leadership failures. The situation of Guyana and its ongoing failure to lock in guaranteed full liability coverage on the part of ExxonMobil, USA, in the event of an oil spill is a case in point. There is political procrastination, there is leadership feebleness, and there is living under a shadow should something blowup in ExxonMobil’s offshore operations.
We at this publication have been pounding loudly and repeatedly on the door of the PPP/C Government to move as quickly as possible to obtain the absolutely necessary full liability coverage that this country needs. President Ali has been a study in largely ignoring this vital issue. Then, Vice President Bharat Jagdeo has adopted a posture that is slippery, tricky, and hazy. In earlier days, he spoke of his confidence in America’s ExxonMobil, meaning that the parent company would be good for any damages that resulted from an oil spill, and for which there was not enough insurance coverage.
Jagdeo then changed his tune, under continuing public clamour and pressure, and started to offer something about ‘getting ExxonMobil USA (not Esso Guyana) to acknowledge up to US$2B in coverage.’ This was only after much pulling of teeth, and he found himself cornered again and again. While the wait for that so-called US$2B ‘acknowledgement’ hovered unanswered by ExxonMobil, it was pointed out to Dr. Jagdeo that that US$2B was highly inadequate, however looked at, should ExxonMobil go beyond acknowledgment of responsibility for such a liability, and actually take ownership of it.
Reference was made to what exploded in the Gulf of Mexico involving BP of the UK. The cost of that massive blowup is now in the tens of billions of US dollars, and is projected to grow to well over US$100B when all is accounted for and paid up. While the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Macondo Oil Well was of catastrophic proportions, the undeniable fact remains that human error and failure combined to cause deaths and great destruction.
In this hemisphere, there was the more recent oil spill in Peru, and the struggles of that country’s officials to get proper compensation for what occurred, along with greater safeguards in place so that Peruvians could feel more protected. What should be of special interest to Guyanese is what ExxonMobil did when the Exxon Valdez disaster happened in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
ExxonMobil used its incomparable financial power, its massive corporate reach, to get the original US$5B court award reduced all the way down to US$540M. After decades of court wheeling and stonewalling, ExxonMobil walked away with an almost 90% savings. We ask again the same question that comes to mind when we think of the Exxon Valdez, and ExxonMobil’s dogfight and legal firefight over it. If ExxonMobil’s chiefs could spearhead something like this against their fellow Americans, many of their same heritage, then what is there that ExxonMobil would not do against Guyanese, almost all Brown, Black, and nonwhite people?
In Guyana, ExxonMobil is racing ahead with increasing levels of daily oil production, and the local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a picture of helplessness. As ExxonMobil ratchets up its production numbers beyond recommended safety limits, Guyana’s EPA is only too glad to rubberstamp the company’s actions. It is to this leashed State agency that Jagdeo passes off the full liability coverage in his efforts to slip the noose. He did that dodge before when the pressure built around him and he said ‘talk to the EPA…’ Now he is again pointing to the EPA, with “it should have been done already.” That is, the full liability coverage owned by ExxonMobil. Despite taking an eternity, we are glad that Vice President Jagdeo is slowly coming to his senses. We shall see what the EPA has to say of what was “done already”, and if not, why not, and where to, given Dr. Jagdeo’s newest position.
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