Kaieteur News – International Lawyer, Melinda Janki has described Guyana’s oil sector as extractivism, rather than investment by the companies seeking to develop the country’s natural resources.
She made this point during an interview last week with an international broadcaster that features in-depth reports on current affairs. The attorney told viewers that oil companies operating in Guyana are refusing to obey the laws set out to govern the sector, arguing that citizens must maintain their right to determine the management of the industry. “The fact is that this is not investment, it in Guyana, this is extractivism. This is a foreign company coming in and refusing to obey national law…if you don’t like national laws, then don’t come to Guyana but once you are here, you have to obey those laws,” she said.
The Lawyer added, “If you don’t think that Guyanese should have a say in what happens in this country then you are in the wrong place.”
Janki pointed out that seven matters have been filed in the local Courts, by citizens, challenging the oil and gas activities. She noted that Guyana has an Environmental Protection Act, which was drafted by her several years ago, that must guide the production activities; however there has been lax enforcement by the body established to regulate the industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
To this end, the Lawyer argued that companies must acknowledge that complying with the national legislation is the cost of doing business in Guyana. She cited in her presentation that only last month, the Court ruled in the favour of two citizens, ordering ExxonMobil to abide by the Permit it received to produce oil at the Liza One project in the Stabroek Block.
Janki explained, “The legislation for example in Guyana says that you must do an environmental impact assessment. It must comply with certain parameters, (then) you are granted an environmental permit and then you must comply with your permit. Nobody forces you to take the permit but once you accept the permit, you must comply with it.”
On the other hand, the Attorney argued that the High Court Judge, Justice Sandil Kissoon in his ruling said that Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), the subsidiary of Exxon, was in breach of the Permit and the EPA had failed as the regulator to enforce the regulations. “What he actually said was that they had put Guyana at risk by their failure to do their job and he said that Esso was never in any doubt as to what its liabilities were under the Permit but they just didn’t comply… under the Permit the Judge said that Esso had to produce an uncapped, unlimited parent company guarantee for all costs for pollution or discharge of a contaminant. So if there is pollution, if there is a well blow out, if there is an oil spill then ExxonMobil is the person that the Guyana government turns to for the money to clean up,” Janki explained. She was keen to point out the importance of the parent company guarantee to her viewers as well, highlighting that Guyana not only lacks the financial capability to respond to a possible devastating spill, but also has no experience or capacity to respond to such an event.
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