Laws to protect Guyana from oil spill liabilities to be laid soon – VP Jagdeo

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Workers of Oil Mop Environmental Services (OMES) suction oil from a spill at Magdalena Grand Resort, in Tobago Island, Trinidad and Tobago, February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Clement George Williams

…says will likely be brought before 2024 parliamentary recess

In the wake of the recent oil spill off the coast of Tobago, which has resulted in a massive clean-up effort by the Trinidad and Tobago Government, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has assured that legislation aimed at protecting Guyana from such liabilities would soon be coming.

During a recent press conference, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo indicated that these laws had been in the pipeline long before the spillage off the Tobago coast. Such protection will certainly be important in light of the millions of US dollars usually associated with oil spill clean-ups and T&T Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley’s previous admission that the clean-up would come “at a significant cost”.

“Long before all of this happened, the spillage in Tobago, we’ve been working to have legislation in place. And those will come before the recess, to cover all sorts of liabilities. A law in place, like they have in the US and some other countries, that will also cover transportation,” Jagdeo said.

“Because we have more crude being transported in our jurisdiction. So, it’s not just liabilities of the oil companies, but transport companies, etc, and that’s been in the works a long time so that we can protect this country,” he added.

In addition to legislative protection, Guyana already has guarantees from oil producer ExxonMobil, in the unlikely event of an oil spill. Last year following a court ruling, Exxon affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) had lodged a US$2 billion affiliate insurance guarantee with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to Jagdeo during the press conference, Exxon’s assets can be sold to cover any expenses related to a spill and in response to questions, he had highlighted how varied and extensive those assets were.

“If I have to list the assets of Exxon, have you read the balance sheet, have you gone to the financial statements and looked at the balance sheets? You should look at that. I have to list every asset that they have and consider something else. We talk about the book value of the assets, let me just give you an idea. You’ve heard about the merger between Chevron and Hess,” Jagdeo had said.

Last year, ExxonMobil Guyana President Alistair Routledge made it clear that Exxon had set up a “long line of defences” to prevent oil spills from occurring. These include applying new technologies to the design of the wells, training personnel, and strict safety practices.

Additionally, the company also acquired a capping stack – a piece of equipment that is placed over the blown-out well to stop oil from spilling. These can be accessed within five days but as of this year, Exxon is required to have this equipment in the country as part of the Yellowtail Permit. Meanwhile, in the event of an oil spill, it was explained that Exxon already has about $20 billion in financial resources set aside to respond to such a “highly unlikely” incident.

Business Service Manager for ExxonMobil Guyana, Phillip Rietema had, meanwhile, said that in addition to the billions of dollars in investments in Guyana the company had, more would also be invested in the country as investments ramp up.

Because of this, he had explained, the oil major would not want to jeopardise its investments by not upholding its commitment or conforming to requirements. As he put it, the company is incentivised to mitigate dangers from oil spills and to clean them up as quickly and efficiently as possible in the unlikely event they did occur.