Environment framework in place for oil drilling – gov’t

Amid ongoing concerns about environmental safeguards for offshore oil drilling, the Ministry of Natural Resources says measures are in place including compensation for the affected party.

Two rigs are drilling simultaneously for oil in Guyana’s waters – one in a property wholly owned by CGX and the other in a property held by a consortium including CGX and Repsol.

Drilling is coming to the end of the scheduled period set aside in the wholly owned CGX property but there is no official word yet on the results.

In a statement today, the Ministry of Natural Resources said:

“Further to enquiries about environmental safeguards and off-shore hydrocarbon activities, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment wishes to make the following points.

“First of all, it should be noted that there is a statutory framework that exists in Guyana as it relates to environmental management. This is mandated in the Environmental Protection Act, 1996, under which the EPA was established. This framework caters for environmental management of all developmental activities in the country including the Petroleum Sector. The functions of the EPA ensure that development integrates measures for environmental impact avoidance, mitigation, remediation, and protection, which are clearly stated in Part II 4(1).

“Developmental activities, which are deemed by the Agency to have potentially significant impacts on the environment or listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Act, must apply to the Agency for Environmental Authorization. The EP Act, No 11 of 1996, establishes the requirement for Environmental Authorisation of Developments/Projects.

“It is under Part IV of the EP Act, 1996, which both CGX and Repsol Oil Exploratory Companies submitted Applications for Environmental Authorisations for Oil Exploration activities within the respective Prospecting Licences issued by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.

However, prior to the submission of Applications for Environmental authorization, both Companies submitted Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) which provided information on  principled exploration drilling activities, a description of all supporting activities and baseline conditions, and assessed potential environmental impacts and mitigation actions. Both SEAs were reviewed and approved by the Agency and the relevant sector agencies. To note, several consultations with both the relevant sector agencies and public were conducted by the Companies to garner views, and address concerns relating to the development.

“Subsequently, Environmental Authorisations were granted to both CGX and Respol which contain specific conditions to ensure effective environmental management of the Oil Exploratory Wells, and thus maintain the integrity of Guyana’s coastal resources. Both Environmental Authorisations stipulate national and international standards for various environmental parameters and operation protocols which must be adhered to. Further, the Companies are required to submit monthly reports on the progress of the operation and compliance with the conditions under which the Permit was granted. In addition, the Companies have submitted Emergency Response Plans (ERPs), Oil Spill Contingency Plans (OSCPs) and Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) for the relevant sector agencies review and feedback. To note, the ERPs prepared by both Companies were presented at a Public Forum on February 14, 2012, which was attended by relevant sector agencies and the media. The Companies would have also conducted seminars and table-top exercises to test the effectiveness of the emergency response procedures on April 02 and 03, 2012, with the relevant sector agencies.

“Another aspect covered in the Environmental Authorisations issued to these Companies, is the mandatory compensation of affected party for any loss or damage to the environment that is directly attributable to the Project. The Environmental Authorisations also require that these Companies provide the financial, equipment and technical capacity to adequately respond to any emergency that may occur on site and respond to any emergency immediately.

“In the event of finding oil within the Guyana Basin by either Company, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) would be required before commencing commercial drilling. EIAs are undertaken with the intention of protecting and enhancing the quality of human life and the preservation of the stability of ecosystems and species diversity by ensuring that economic development continues in a way that least harms the environment. Further, the EIA process allows for public consultation and participation in the decision-making process.

“The EIAs prepared by the Companies would have to be submitted to the Agency for review and approval; after which an Environmental Authorisation for Commercial Drilling may be granted. This Environmental Authorisation would also contain conditions for effective environmental management of the said activity, accompanied with national and international standards for operations and environmental parameters, and the necessary submission requirements which would allow for the monitoring of operation in accordance with Environmental Authorisation conditions. The Environmental Authorisation would also contain obligatory requirements that would have to be adhered to in the event of any loss or damage to the environment.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment is committed to ensuring that the environmental and other safeguards required resulting from hydrocarbon development are fully subscribed to even if the inviting of stakeholders in and out of Guyana will be required”, the statement added.


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