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EPA allows ‘flawed’ environmental impact assessment to slide through. -Kaieteur News

…as Gas-to-Energy study only considers impacts of pipeline, NGL Plant. The Executive Director of the EPA, Mr. Kemraj Parsram. (News Room)

Davina Bagot, Kaieteur News

GEIRGETOWN
EnergiesNet.com 05 16 2022

Since last year July, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was alerted that the law which governs the sector does not allow for impact studies to be conducted for selected parts of a project, but rather cover the entire scope of a proposed venture. To the astonishment of some, the state owned institution has completely ignored this fact, which was brought to its attention orally and in writing during the 28-day consultations on the Terms of Reference for the gas-to-energy project.

For example, in a letter to the Executive Director of the EPA, Mr. Kemraj Parsram, dated July 25, 2021, environmentalist and geologist Simone Mangal-Joly alerted the EPA that the Environmental Protection (EP) Act, Section 11(5)(a)(1), states that an EIA must address the “whole project”.

Despite this clear mandate being set out in the law, the EPA has allowed the project developer, ExxonMobil, via its subsidiary Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), to submit an environmental impact assessment which does not meet the standards set out in the law, as the document merely takes into account the onshore and offshore pipeline and the Natural Gas Liquids Plant (NGL) Plant – the two aspects of the project to be pursued by the company.

The Government of Guyana will be pursuing a power plant at the same identified site at Wales, West Bank Demerara to generate some 250 megawatts of electricity. Even though the issue was raised back in 2021, ExxonMobil has gone ahead and already submitted an impact assessment that only considers their piece of the whole project.

During consultations with the public last week on the proposed venture, another citizen, attorney Elizabeth Deanes-Hughes asked the oil company to explain why separate EIAs were being done for parts of the gas-to-energy project. The Consultancy firm, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) shared that the power plant is being pursued by another developer, therefore a separate application has to be made to the EPA which will determine whether an EIA is necessary for the power plant and inform the applicant on the steps required.

Todd Hall, the Guyana Programme Lead for ERM said, “In this case, EEPGL applied as the proponent for the NGL Plant and of course the pipeline and a separate entity applied for the power plant, GPL (Guyana Power and Light) specifically. So its GPL remit, under the law of course to do whatever the EPA directs it to do with respect to environmental assessment in the process of acquiring a permit for the plant.”

In the meantime, Hall told the resident that ERM has considered the likely impacts of the power plant and has included information in its cumulative impacts assessment chapter of the EIA.

In her letter to the EPA head, environmentalist, Simone Mangal-Joly had submitted back in July 2021 that the Terms of Reference for the EIS must include the impacts of the broth, the power plant and the mechanism that will be used to bottle and move the natural gas liquids from the site and that the study must account for the “full impact footprint” of the project as required by law.

According to Mangal-Joly, “The Act does not permit the EPA or any other party to use who the developer is as a criterion for defining the scope of a project. The litmus test for determining a project scope is whether the component can exist on its own, which the (NGL) plant obviously cannot.”

In an invited comment to this newspaper, she argued that the Environmental Protection Act does not say that a project can be applied for, based on who the owner is. Instead, she pointed out, “You can apply based on who the developer is. You apply based on the project and the project cannot exist if a power plant isn’t there to take the gas; it would blow up! This is a steady state system. Gas is fed from offshore, treated and natural gas is piped to a power plant for consumption while the natural gas liquids are bottled and shipped. The three components must work together. So you can’t give an environmental permit for just the pipeline from offshore and the gas processing facility, a permit for something that has no guarantees because obviously the outputs are not just going to go into the atmosphere…”

To drive home her case, Mangal-Joly added, “The developers of the various components of the project ought to apply together. There is nothing that says you can’t apply as a consortium. The (EP) Act however says that you can’t take a piece of the project and go to get an EIA done.”

On the other hand, she said that as an ordinary citizen, she has now seen firsthand how the EPA and ExxonMobil are operating. According to her, “These consultations, and all others they have held, are mere charades. They are designed to give the impression of a democratic process, but every time we gather there, we are being used as the agents of our own disempowerment. The performance of meetings is being used to create an illusion of democratic engagement to legitimise illegalities and their failure to be responsible and accountable to the people of Guyana. I need not remind the public that from the inception of this gas-to-energy project’s statutory process, the EPA has flatly refused to disclose the application that ExxonMobil made for the environmental permit. This is illegal. The application ought to form part of the National Register. I don’t think we need to look much farther beyond this behaviour to see the rot.”

kaieteurnewsonline.com 05 14 2022

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