After years of silence in public office on the controversies surrounding ExxonMobil’s operations, Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan has finally broken his silence, criticizing ExxonMobil’s latest revealed infractions and the new administration’s management of the oil sector. This, he did, during a virtual press conference of the AFC, while former Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, who infamously signed the widely condemned 2016 Stabroek Block agreement, remained tightlipped on these issues.
The AFC leaders had been asked to comment on the recent decision by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government to send Dr. Vincent Adams on leave, replacing him as Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a director of the EPA, Sharifah Razack.
His removal comes at a critical time, in the review of the Payara Field Development Plan (FDP). Ramjattan said that his removal should be condemned by all those who are concerned, as it is a “most egregious development”.
Ramjattan noted only now, his discontentment with Exxon’s flaring of gas which is supposed to be reinjected at the Liza Phase One project, despite the matter of the company’s flaring being well ventilated in the press, all year long.
“Now, flaring was not supposed to be done,” Ramjattan noted. “They were supposed to have on the FPSO [Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Vessel], a certain piece of equipment that is going to inject back into the well, that amount of natural gas. But we have wasted so much and it has created pollution because everything burning up there is pollution…”
Exxon has blamed its flaring on a defective gas compressor, which it claims is undergoing repairs in Germany. The AFC Leader also noted the matter of thousands of barrels of toxic, produced water being dumped into the ocean every day by ExxonMobil.
“That is another pollution into the ocean.,” Ramjattan stated.
The former Prime Ministerial hopeful said that that he is not impressed with ExxonMobil, and that though he is happy that Guyana managed to begin producing oil, ExxonMobil will have to spend more money to ensure the natural environment is safeguarded from the company’s operations offshore.
He even alluded to a recent threat by Exxon’s Country Manager, Alistair Routledge to take the company’s money elsewhere, and said that if Exxon “is trying to bluff us”, Guyana should still hold out to ensure the best environmental standards are attained.
With Dr. Adams gone, Ramjattan does not believe that that will be the case. Adams was pivotal in advocating for the removal of several loopholes in the Payara FDP, which allowed ExxonMobil to commit grave environmental infractions at its Liza Destiny operations. He also notably had intended to take ExxonMobil to Court over ExxonMobil’s refusal to pay fines imposed by the EPA for small hydraulic fluid spills at its Liza Phase One operations.
Ramjattan noted that Dr. Adams was not a political appointee, but attained the post on the basis of the sound, remarkable academic record and experience he brought to the table.
“He comes with tremendous experience and expertise,” Ramjattan opined, “and he is the only one that we feel could deal with Exxon at this stage.”
On the other hand, Ramjattan worries that the PPP/C Government may instruct the new EPA Head to sign off on the Payara contract, what he described as the “control freakism” of the governing party. He opined that it is a grave day for the environment and all issues surrounding oil & gas, and called on the Guyanese people to take action in the interest of Guyana’s natural environment.
In addition to the removal of Dr. Adams, Ramjattan criticized the appointment of, Alison Redford to spearhead the review of the Payara FDP, noting grave ethical considerations. Redford formerly served as Premier of Alberta, a Canadian province. She was forced to resign from office in 2014 due to a scandal over her misuse of public funds for partisan and personal purposes. The provincial auditor general had found that Redford used taxpayer money “inappropriately.”
Ramjattan noted that the AFC is “troubled” by Redford’s appointment, despite the party’s silence when the former APNU+AFC government replaced Trinidadian Local Content Expert, Anthony Paul with UK Consultant, Dr. Michael Warner, a man whose prior business relationship with ExxonMobil saw his appointment flagged as a clear conflict of interest.
Despite this newspaper’s extensive ventilation of this matter, the former Government, in which Ramjattan served, allowed Warner to remove safeguards Paul had included in earlier drafts of the local content policy meant to provide the utmost scrutiny of oil companies’ local content commitments. Dr. Warner went on to replace those safeguards with confidentiality provisions, described by several experts Kaieteur News interviewed, as “highly unusual”. Those confidentiality provisions were later approved in the final policy.