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ExxonMobil fails to adhere to environmental permit but seeking more approvals

ExxonMobil fails to adhere to environmental permit but seeking more approvals

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– Environmentalist lists 7 actions that must be taken for EPA to regain citizens trust 

By Davina Bagot

Kaieteur News – US oil major, ExxonMobil has submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeking approval to startup its fifth project in the Stabroek Block Uaru Plus but to date, the oil company is yet to comply with the laws of Guyana and the provisions of the permits it received thus far from the regulator body.
This is according to environmentalist, Simone Mangal-Joly, who on May 27, 2022, told the EPA Head, Mr. Kemraj Parsram that, “It is unconscionable that the EPA would consider accepting and processing yet another application for a production FPSO (floating, production, storage and offloading) vessel from ExxonMobil when the company has failed to meet the requirements of environmental permits it already holds and has made no effort to demonstrate that it has fixed its faulty equipment as the Liza One environmental permit allowing routine gas flaring is about to expire.”

Environmentalist, Simone Mangal-Joly

Mangal-Joly said she was curious as to why the EPA is indulging ExxonMobil in practices that evade international best practice standards and violate the legal requirements of the Environmental Protection Act and environmental permits it currently holds.
The EPA has opened a 28-day period where members of the public can give their comments on an application Exxon made for the Uaru Project. In this regard, the Environmentalist questioned, “What comfort can Guyanese have that the EPA will act independently and conscientiously in processing the Uaru Application when it has shattered its own credibility with its handling of Exxon Mobils permits to date?”
To this end, she listed seven actions that must be taken for the publics confidence in the EPA to be regained.
Enforce parent company insurance
Given that the Liza Two Permit outlines that the permit holder, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), must provide from the parent company, ExxonMobil, a legal binding document that ties it to any liabilities EEPGL may fail to satisfy, she noted that the EPA must, “Cease and desist from allowing ExxonMobil to violate the liability insurance coverage requirements in the Liza 2 Environmental Permit.” Mangal-Joly went on to remind Mr. Parsram that Exxon illegally started up the Liza Two operations without satisfying the requirements in Section 12 of the Permit. As a consequence, “Liza Two operations must be suspended until the permits requirements are met,” the environmentalist posited.
Cancel Yellowtail Environmental Permit
Exxon’s fourth project, Yellowtail, received a green light from the EPA, even though flaws in the EIA process were brought to its attention. For instance, the environmentalist had pointed out that the impacts of the project were deferred, while the EPA also breached the law when it failed to publish reasons for justifying issuance of the Yellowtail Permit. To this end, she said, “Cancel the Yellowtail Environmental Permit, which was issued in violation of the Environmental Protection Act, and restart the environmental impact assessment process in compliance with the legal requirements of the Environmental Protection Acts provisions for the conduct of environmental impact assessments as well as procedures for the issuance of an environmental permit.”
Reduce startup time for flaring
“International best practice standard for gas flaring at start up is restrictive. For example, in ExxonMobils home country, the United States, it is 48 hours. Yet the Liza 1 permit (added – and Modified – Section 3.6.ii), and all subsequent environmental permits for FPSOs issued to ExxonMobil, allow a whopping 60 days of flaring at start up. This obvious overindulgence is an affront to good governance that betrays a partiality to ExxonMobil against the interest of Guyanas environment and people,” the environmentalist argued. She therefore suggested that the EPA reduce the startup time for gas flaring in all of Exxon’s Environmental permits to comply with international best practices.

EPA Head, Mr. Kemraj Parsram

End illegal gas flaring
Mangal-Joly has also challenged the EPA to stop ExxonMobil from flaring associated gas. According to her, “Clause 3.6.iii.b.i. allowing for flaring in the Liza 1 permit represents a despicable betrayal of the public expectation and trust and makes a mockery of the Environmental Protection Act and statutory Environmental Impact Assessment process.” She explained that the Liza 1 EIA, which is the basis for the environmental permit, explicitly says that no flaring would be allowed except in specific conditions related to start up and for other safety purposes, however, a clause was added to allow Exxon to flare as long as it pays a meagre penalty of US$45 for carbon dioxide for gas flared.
All permits must align with int’l best practices
In another recommendation to the EPA, Mangal-Joly said all of Exxon’s Environmental permits should be aligned with international best practices, especially when it comes to the handling of produced water. She explained that the international standard and practice prescribed by the World Bank is reinjection into the reservoir. With this in mind, she questioned, “Why is the Government of Guyana allowing ExxonMobil to dump millions of gallons of produced water from each FPSO into our marine environment? The water dumped is only treated for oil content before discharge. At discharge, it is 55 degrees centigrade, approximately 30 degrees centigrade hotter than the average temperature of ocean water. This temperature is hostile to marine life. Produced water is also radioactive and carries toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury. Most notably, even though it is treated, it is still contaminated with oil.”
Moreover, the environmentalist pointed to the fact that five years into oil and gas operations in Guyana, the EPA has still not conducted or ordered studies to understand where sensitive environmental receptors and important habitats such as coral reefs, spawning areas and others are located, relative to ExxonMobils well installations and discharge outflows and ocean currents. To this end, she said, “The impacts that could result from dumping produced water and other offshore activities can only be ascertained if this type of information is obtained.”
Mangal-Joly therefore submitted that at the very least, the Precautionary Principle enshrined in the Environmental Protection Act must apply, and ExxonMobil must not be permitted to discharge produced water. Furthermore, the EPA, she said, must immediately rectify all permits to meet international standards and require reinjection of produced water into the well.
ExxonMobil must sign EIAs
Meanwhile, the environmentalist, in underscoring yet another point, told the EPA that it must cease from accepting EIAs not signed by ExxonMobil while noting “failure to sign an EIA is a violation of the EPA Act Section 11(10), which specifically requires that: “The developer and the person carrying out the environmental impact assessment shall submit the environmental impact assessment together.”
Gas-to-Energy EIA must comply with law
Finally, the industry stakeholder said the EPA still has not disclosed a copy of the application for the permit that was made for the gas-to-energy project, despite repeated requests from members of the public at consultations on the Terms of Reference for the study and the public right under section 36 of the EP Act.
Further to that, she also told Mr. Parsram that the application and EIA study being conducted is in violation of Section (5) (a) (1) of the EP Act, which requires an assessment of the whole project and land use, whereas the EIA and the application made by ExxonMobil merely addresses its part of the project.
The environmentalist insists that the foregoing actions must be taken if the EPA is to regain the publics trust.