Environmental permits for Liza phases 1, 2 reduced to five years each

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The environmental permits for ExxonMobil’s Liza 1 and 2 projects have now been reduced from 20 and 24 years to five years each as a result of an order granted by the High Court.

Instead of the permits expiring in 2040 and 2043, they will now expire in 2022 and 2024, forcing Exxon’s subsidiary Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) to apply for new permits and giving the public an opportunity to demand better terms for Guyana.

The High Court order was granted in a case filed by scientist and former head of the Transparency Institute of Guyana Dr. Troy Thomas challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) to issue the permits for such a long period. In the case filed in June 2020 and heard in September, he argued that the first permit issued to Esso on June 1, 2017, violates the EPA’s regulations which expressly limits environmental permits to no more than five years.

Dr Thomas was represented by Seenath Jairam SC, and attorneys Melinda Janki and Pratesh Satram. The EPA was represented by Anessa Chow, while Esso was represented by Andrew Pollard, SC.

In a statement on Sunday, Janki said the order was issued earlier this month.

“The environmental permits for Liza I and Liza II have already been revised to conform to applicable law. The Payara environmental permit of 24th September 2020 was issued for five years in conformity with the law,” she added.

According to the, “following initial hearings in the case, Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency and Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd (ExxonMobil’s subsidiary) settled the matter by agreeing to limit the permit to 5 years, as provided by law.”

The revelation comes at a time when the US Oil major is being criticized for continuous flaring of gas offshore which is bad for the environment.

Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam was quoted saying it was a challenge fighting an oil and gas giant but the law is pellucid regarding the duration of an environmental permit and for good reason.

“Our environment is our most precious resource and the law makers obviously intended that the EPA should have an opportunity at regular intervals to assess the suitability of an operator to continue operations, using international best practices,” he noted.

Dr. Thomas in his comments included in the release, he said “the Guyanese people have loudly and repeatedly expressed their concern and anger at the danger that ExxonMobil’s oil production poses to Guyana’s environment and natural resources.  I want people to know that we can and should take action to protect our national patrimony.  We need to come together and safeguard the future for our children.”

Attorney-at-Law, Janki was quoted saying that “successive governments have given away Guyana’s oil. We must not allow them to destroy Guyana’s rich marine resources as well. Guyana has strong environmental laws to protect the nation against dangerous oil and gas.”

She added that, “It is clear that the people cannot rely on the government or the so-called conservation organisations to protect Guyana’s rich biodiversity. Our future depends on individuals who are willing and patriotic enough to step forward as Dr. Thomas has done.”

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