Latest update June 2nd, 2023 12:49 AM
May 15, 2023 News
…as recent EAB ruling favours EPA decision
Kaieteur News – The recent ruling by the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB), a body mandated by law to preside over the concerns of the public, and act as an independent appeal group into the decisions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has caused some members of civil society to lose confidence in the body.
This newspaper was even told that the EAB’s ruling on May 10, which upheld the decision of the EPA to waive an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Wales gas-fired power plant is illegal.
In the meantime, other members of civil society are still preparing to lodge an appeal on another decision of the EPA to waive an EIA for a radioactive waste facility by Schlumberger, at Houston, East Bank Demerara.
Vanda Radzik, who had successfully challenged the regulator in Court on the exemption of the detailed study for the said project, said she is prepared to do this again if necessary.
In an interview with Kaieteur News on Saturday, Radzik reasoned that the Environmental Protection Act makes provision for five members to be appointed to the EAB. She said for the time she has known the Board, it has always been outfitted with “high ranking government officials”. The civil society member said she had publicly made a proposal for the critical body to appoint its full five members, with at least two professional, independent members of civil society or environmentalists. “Why is this not done? Why are we, all the time, with just three government employees in charge of what should be a completely independent Board? It is not right,” she insisted. Radzik strongly believes that in the absence of “independent specialists” the EAB is deficient.
Radzik told this newspaper that she has made appeals under the three most recent EABs. Presently, she is preparing to lodge another appeal under the current Board, Chaired by Dr. Mahendar Sharma, who is the Head of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA).
The EPA on April 17, 2023 announced that it has exempted the Schlumberger radioactive waste facility at Houston from an EIA. It must be noted that this is the second waiver of the study that has been approved by the regulator. To this end, Radzik said her letter of objection will be filed to the EAB, highlighting the need for this study of what she believes is Guyana’s first radioactive facility.
Even though the EAB has just ruled against their appeal in the waiver of an EIA for the 300-megawatt power plant, Radzik pointed out that members of civil society will continue to use the avenues prescribed under the rule of law where these projects are concerned.
She explained, “Our whole premise is that the rule of law is the supreme law of Guyana. We, the ones that are protesting what is going on in this country, we are in that framework of rule of law must prevail and therefore we go through the motions.”
While Radzik did not relay much confidence in the outcome of the process, she maintained, “We believe in the rule of law. The law says EIAs are an essential part of the business of the EPA which is a public agency and we are further saying that Schlumberger for its construction and operation and everything to do with it requires an EIA.”
She was keen to note, “…therefore if the EPA keeps waiving an EIA, we will continue to object to this because we feel it is a breach of the law and of citizens’ right to have a professional independent EIA.”
Radzik pointed out that the conduct of an EIA is the only mechanism that allows for the public’s participation through a series of consultations. The advocate contended, “The EIA is what allows the public participation of citizens, not in one consultation, but in a series of consultations conducted by best practices and qualified scientists.”
She said these consultations are lacking even though this is a right of Guyanese to have a say and have the requisite expertise respond on critical matters.
According to her, “Our Judge ruled categorically against Schlumberger under the last EAB and we are objecting again and if necessary, we go to Court again.”
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