Toothless oil spill plan mandates operators to clean up spills

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…but Govt to cover cleanup costs if operators duck responsibilities

The draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan shows that while operators are obligated to clean up spills caused by their operations, Government has to handle the costs of clean up and seek reimbursement after, if operators do not hold up their end of the bargain.

This is according to section 4/4.2 of the plan, which gives insight about what will happen if an operator shirks their responsibility. It says that the Competent National Authority, in this case, the Civil Defence Commission, may provide written instructions to the operators to clean up the spill.

If the operator still does not carry out his duties, then the CDC has to transfer the responsibility for cleanup. The plan also says that in such a case, the CDC will seek reimbursement from the operator, suggesting that the cleanup costs will be borne by the Government.

President David Granger

“The course of action immediately following a spill of any magnitude is for the responsible party/polluter to undertake all necessary actions and expenditures and in any event be held liable for all costs and damages arising from or connected with the spill.”

The plan also stated that the party responsible for causing the spill has the following specific responsibilities: reporting the spill immediately to the National Focal Point/lead agency, taking immediate action to control or stem the source of the spill, taking immediate action to contain the spill and prevent it from spreading and cooperating fully with the (CDC) in the response to the spill.

At a workshop held earlier last week to assist in finalising the plan, Director of the CDC Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig noted that Guyana has the upper hand, compared to other countries. According to Craig, when it comes to response time to an oil spill, Guyana requires operators to immediately respond.

Acting Director General, Civil Defence Commission, Lieutenant-Colonel Kester Craig

“A key feature we included in the plan has to do with reporting procedures. In many other plans, they are given within 24 hours to report on any incident. But as [it] relates to our plan, operators are required to respond immediately to any spill across their area of operation,” Craig said.

“The reason why, we don’t want to wait until there is an escalation several hours after before we can start the response mechanism. We prefer to respond with more resources immediately and have to withdraw after, rather than responding with little resources and the[n] we cannot effectively contain the spill.”

The Stabroek, Kanuku and Orinduik blocks are just some of the oil blocks that have operators from all over the world drilling for oil. Oil in commercial quantities has so far been found in the Stabroek and Orinduik blocks. Together, the blocks are believed to hold billions of barrels of oil.

Guyana’s state of readiness is a sore issue, considering the fact that first oil is next year and only a single piece of legislation related to the sector has been passed. This legislation is the Natural Resources Fund bill, which was signed into law by President David Granger earlier this year.

The bill to create a Petroleum Commission is yet to pass in the House and a Draft Local Content Policy was recently released. The Oil Spill Plan is, however, expected to be finalised by the first week in next month.