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Guyana’s High Court Judge stops Schlumberger from operating radioactive storage facility – Kaieteur News

judge quashes permit, rules waiving impact study was illegal

The Schlumberger headquarters at Houston
The Schlumberger headquarters at Houston

Kaieteur News

GEORGETOWN
EnergiesNet.com 12 19 2022

Justice Nareshwar Harnanan on Friday granted an injunction to stop the operation of US based Company, Schlumberger Guyana Inc.’s radioactive storage facility located at Lot 1 Area ‘X’ Houston, East Bank Demerara (EBD).

On February 14, 2022, three Environmental Activists and residents who live nearby the facility, Vanda Radzik, Danuta Radzik, and Raphael Singh, through their Lawyers: Marlene Alleyne, Siand Dhurjon, and Ronald Burch-Smith filed a lawsuit at the Demerara High Court against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Assessment Board and Schlumberger.
Attorneys-at-Law Shareefah Parks and Frances Carryl represented EPA while the Law Office, Hughes, Fields and Stoby represented Schlumberger.

High Court Judge, Nareshwar Harnanan
High Court Judge, Nareshwar Harnanan

At Friday’s hearing, Justice Harnanan ruled that the EPA breached its statutory duties when it made the decision to waive the requirement of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to Schlumberger in relation to granting an environmental permit for the construction of the facility.
In fact, the Judge declared that EPA’s decision to not conduct an EIA into the effects of the construction of the facility was illegal, ultra vires, unreasonable, and irrational since it breached the Environmental Protection Act, Cap.20:05.

Justice Harnanan granted an Order of Certiorari issued and directed to the EPA quashing its decision on June 9, 2021 to award an environmental authorisation to Schlumberger to construct a radioactive substances and material storage and calibration facility on the ground that the decision is ultra vires and breached the EPA statutory duty set out under section 11 (2) of the EPA Act.

Attorney-at-Law, Marlene Alleyne
Attorney-at-Law, Marlene Alleyne

A second Order of Certiorari, was issued and directed to the EPA quashing its decision made in January 2022, that permitted Schlumberger to operate its radioactive substances and materials storage and calibration facility and to possess, use and store radioactive materials, on the ground that the decision was in breach of the EPA statutory duty set out under Section 11 (1) and (2) of the EPA Act.

Section 11 of EPA Act, stipulates that any project that may significantly affects the environment requires an EIA and such an assessment requires publication in the newspapers of the intended project as well as consultations with the public.

Further, the Judge issued an injunction against Schlumberger, restraining it from continuing the possession, use and storage of radioactive chemicals at its Houston facility, unless and until it is in receipt of a lawfully issued permit pursuant to the provisions of the EPA Act.

Attorney-at-Law, Ronald Burch-Smith
Attorney-at-Law, Ronald Burch-Smith
Attorney-at-Law, Siand Dhurjon
Attorney-at-Law, Siand Dhurjon

Further, the Judge ordered costs were to be paid by EPA and Schlumberger to the Applicants.

According to reports, on January 19, 2022, the EPA without any notice given to the public, granted Schlumberger permission to use, store and possess radioactive materials at its facility located at Houston.

Notably, the public was also not given any notice that any such permit was under consideration by the Environmental Agency.
However, on April 11, 2022, the EPA in a notice published in the daily newspapers, disclosed that Schlumberger wanted to construct a building to house the radioactive materials and that the construction process would not require an EIA.

After seeing the EPA’s notice to waiver the EIA for Schlumberger, several residents formally objected to the decision stating that radioactive materials should not be used or stored in close proximity to schools, neighbourhood, or the Demerara River.

Kaieteur News understands that the EPA then convened a meeting with the residents and their Lawyers.
During the meeting, EPA assured the residents that this was only for the construction aspect of the facility and that they would get a better opportunity to speak on the merits and demerits of the actual radioactive storage facility’s operation when Schlumberger seeks an application for same.

Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kemraj Parsram
Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kemraj Parsram

Three residents later approached the court seeking an Order of Certiorari to quash the construction permit EPA granted to Schlumberger and an order of injunction to prevent the company from continuing any construction of the facility.

However, in responding to the residents’ lawsuit, the EPA in its Defence disclosed that the construction of the radioactive facility was already completed and that it had granted permission to Schlumberger to use, possess and store radioactive substances at the facility since January 26, 2022.

The State Agency also submitted to the Court that the Orders the residents sought ought not to be granted since the construction was completed and that operation had already started. The applicants through their Lawyers challenged the EPA’s contention.

For its part, Schlumberger in its Affidavit of Defence argued that the public did not need any notice that the EPA was considering a radioactive materials usage, possession and storage permit because the Authority was satisfied that there would be no substantial impact on the environment.

Notably, the EPA had joined Schlumberger in its Defence stating that it was clear that the project would not affect the residents or the environment.
However, the Lawyers for the residents contended and maintained that the use and storage of radioactive materials at Houston, EBD could significantly impact the environment and should be moved to a less populated area.

kaieteurnewsonlines.com

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