EPA voids ECD cement plant application
--further review reveals Environmental Protection Act was not satisfied
The Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) on Wednesday notified the appellants in the proposed Le Ressouvenir cement plant project that it received notification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the project did not fully satisfy the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act.
The project in question is the proposed cement facility at Le Ressouvenir, on the East Coast of Demerara, metres away from the Le Ressouvenir, Felicity, Happy Acres and Atlantic Gardens residential communities.
In a letter seen by the News Room, Chairman of the EAB, Omkar Lochan, updated the sole appellant, Singer Guyana Inc. and Shahabudeen Ahmad, that the EPA had completed a further review of the Application for Environmental Authorization for the project.
The EPA’s review found that the project summaries and reasons for their decisions provided in public notices respectively did not fully satisfy the requirements of the Act. The EPA has since advised the developer, Vista Trading and Logistics Guyana, to withdraw their current application and resubmit a new application in keeping with the Act and Regulations.
The project summaries, however, were already in the possession of the EPA at the time of their decision and served as the basis for waiving the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). These summaries, which were available on the EPA’s website, were also relied upon by the developer during the hearing on October 7, when the EAB heard the reasons for the objection put forward by the appellants.
Any new information garnered from the developer during the hearing was only ascertained through the questioning by the two attorneys-at-law present, Siand Dhurjon and Moen McDoom Jr. with the EPA appearing to learn certain key details of the operations for the first time.
This fact suggests that in the absence of the appeal by the residents resulting in a hearing, the EPA could have sanctioned the waiver of the EIA based on a deficient application: a grave dereliction of their statutory duties and mandate.
The EAB’s update came almost three weeks after the appeal, which included concerns from residents in the surrounding communities, who disagreed with the EPA’s decision to dispense with requiring the cement plant to undertake an EIA.
The residents, who were alarmed about the potential health and safety risks relating to exposure to toxic cement pollutants in the air, were dismayed to see the EPA unable to answer basic questions about the project.
Despite requests by the appellants, the EPA failed to provide additional information on the project such as the findings of the monitoring tool they used, or the Project Appendices submitted by the developers that were referenced during the hearing.
With the EPA voiding the application, residents are cautiously optimistic that this signals the EPA’s intention to properly discharge its statutory function, including conducting a consultation with the residents before making any decision in the developer’s revised application.