One year after rushing to sign the lopsided Stabroek Block Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with ExxonMobil, the APNU+AFC administration allowed the company’s Liza Phase One permit to be approved on the same day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project.
Exposing this revelation yesterday was international lawyer, Melinda Janki.
In a statement to the press, Janki said she is one of the lawyers representing former Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI) Head, Dr. Troy Thomas in a lawsuit against the EPA. The regulatory body is being sued for giving ExxonMobil a 20-year permit when the law only allows for five-year permits to be issued. During her compilation of evidence for the case, Janki found that the permit issued for Liza Phase One was issued on June 1, 2017, the same day the regulatory body received the EIA which contains around 1500 pages.
Taking this into account, Janki said, “The environmental permit for Liza Phase One, states that it was granted on the basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment dated 1st June 2017. But the environmental permit is also dated June 1, 2017. When did the agency review the 1,500 pages EIA? And what else did they miss? Guyana’s people deserve a candid assessment of this project because they are the ones who will live with its consequences.”
The lawyer added, “The law clearly states that an environmental impact assessment must describe the direct and indirect effects of a project on the climate and on marine areas. Exxon’s environmental impact assessments did not do that.”Janki stressed that the EIA for Liza One was seriously data deficient and based on assumptions that go largely unexplained and unexamined.
With this in mind, she alluded to the fact that Guyana is now facing a number of environmental issues with ExxonMobil’s operations offshore. In this regard, she reminded that ExxonMobil had commenced operations in December 2019, but since doing so, it has flared an estimated 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas. ExxonMobil and EPA officials have attributed the flaring to a faulty component in the gas reinjection system. Despite several promises by Exxon that the problem would be remedied and the flaring would cease by August 15, the company has recently acknowledged the mechanical issues persist and that flaring is ongoing. (https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/08/21/business/21reuters-guyana-oil-exxonmobil.html?searchResultPosition=2)
Just a few days ago, Head of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams who has since been sent on leave with immediate effect, noted that there were a number of issues that slipped through the cracks when the first permit was issued. In this respect, Dr. Adams was keen to note that the matter of flaring is one which the EIA did not address. He told Kaieteur News that while the EIA does note that flaring can happen during a start-up or in the case of emergencies, there is very little information on worst-case scenarios and what impact that would have on the environment. Another critical matter the EIA is silent on relates to the disposal of produced water. When oil companies drill the seafloor to extract oil, it is not only oil that comes up with it. Water is part of the mixture too. As a result of it not being needed, it is separated and disposed of.
The critical issue is how that disposal is being done. International best practices dictate that this produced water should be re-injected into the earth’s surface. Research conducted by Kaieteur News notes that in some cases, the produced water is discharged into oceans and other offshore water channels. Because no two geographic regions are alike, studies are done to assess the environmental risks of the produced water’s toxicity on marine life before granting approval for the disposal of it into the ocean.
In Guyana’s case, not a single study was done for the Liza Phase One. Yet, the APNU+AFC administration went full steam ahead with approving the permit for the project on the same day it received the EIA.
Dr. Adams told Kaieteur News that he is not a proponent for the dumping of produced water into the ocean. He said that the Liza Destiny vessel is already depositing 4,000 barrels of produced water into the ocean and in about six years, it will get to about 300,000 barrels.
Dr. Adams said: “I have worked in the oil fields as a Production and Reservoir engineer and we injected every single drop of water. If you are onshore, the water would obviously have to be re-injected. Also, the World Bank has made it clear that you should only dispose of produced water into the ocean when it is not technically feasible.” In ExxonMobil’s case, the EPA Head said that this is more than feasible.