Supreme Court quashes EPA permit for Schlumberger to store, use radioactive chemicals

1

High Court Judge Nareshwar Harnanan Friday ordered the quashing by certiorari of an environmental permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency permitting the company Schlumberger to construct a radioactive substances and materials storage and calibration facility at Houston, East Bank of Demerara.

The High Court judge declared that the decision of the EPA to not conduct an environmental impact assessment into the effects of the construction of the facility was illegal, ultra vires, unreasonable, and irrational for breaching the Environmental Protection Act, Cap.20:05.

Three environmental activists and residents who live nearby the radioactive facility – Vanda Radzik, Danuta Radzik and Raphael Singh – had filed legal action against the facility through attorneys-at-law Siand Dhurjon, Ronald Burchsmith and Malene Alleyne.

The lawsuit named and sued the EPA, the Environmental Assessment Board and Schlumberger Guyana Inc.

In a statement, the attorneys stated that on 19th January Schlumberger was approved by the EPA without any inkling of a notice given to the public to Use, store and possess radioactive materials at its facility at lot 1 Area X , Houston, beside the East bank demerara public road. The public was not given any notice that such a permit was under consideration or sought at all by the EPA, the lawyers stated.

However, on 11th April, 2022, the EPA had given notice to the public in the newspapers that Schlumberger wanted to construct a building to house the radioactive materials and that the construction process would not require an environmental impact assessment.

Upon seeing this dozens of residents of the East Bank formally objected to the waiver of the need for an environmental impact assessment into the construction process on the grounds that an EIA was inherently necessary and that radioactive materials should not be used and located in close proximity to schools, neighbourhoods, a main thoroughfare, the demerara river, etc.

The EPA had convened a meeting with the said residents and their attorneys, Mr Dhurjon and Ms. Vidushi Persaud-McKinnon. The EPA assured that this was only for the construction aspect of the undertaking by Schlumberger and that they would get a better opportunity to speak on the merits and demerits of the actual radioactive storage facility’s operation when Schlumberger seeks an application for same.

The lawyers stated that under section 11 of the Environmental Protection Act Cap.20:05, any project that may significantly affect the environment requires an environmental impact assessment and such an assessment requires publication in the newspapers of the intended project and consultations with the public.

According to public court documents their lawyers had sued for an order of certiorari to quash the construction permit handed by the EPA to Schlumberger and an order of injunction to prevent Schlumberger from continuing any construction of the facility.

However, to the surprise of the residents, the EPA responded in defence of Schlumberger’s facility by Affidavit dated 28th March, 2022 that construction of the radioactive facility was completed and that they had already permitted Schlumberger to use, possess and store radioactive substances at the facility since 26th January, 2022. The EPA submitted that the orders sought – to quash the construction permit – ought not be granted since both construction had completed and operation had already begun.

The residents were thereafter granted an amendment by Justice Harnanan to seek orders targeting the operation of the facility, the use, storage and possession of radioactive materials by Schlumberger.

Schlumberger has stated in its affidavit filed with the that court at paragraphs 16 and 18 that the reason the public did not need any notice that the EPA was considering a radioactive materials usage, possession and storage permit sought was the EPA was satisfied that there would be no substantial impact on the environment and that the likely impact on the environment was not unclear.

The EPA has joined Schlumberger in their defence and has contended in para. 15 of its affidavit filed with the court that the reason the public was not given any notice that the EPA was considering a radioactive materials usage, possession and storage permit sought by Schlumberger was that it was clear that the project would not affect the environment.

However, the residents maintain that the use and storage of radioactive materials at Houston could significantly impact the environment and should be moved to a less populated area.

Schlumberger was represented by law office Hughes, Fields and Stoby and the EPA was represented by Shareefah Parks and Frances Carryl.

1 Comment
  1. Kamini Wight says

    I fully agree with the ruling. Not only will this facility impact on the well being of the residents but also citizens traversing the said area

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.