EPA fires back at critics

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…says no law broken in issuing Environment Permit for Yellowtail Project

Amid growing criticisms, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assured that it compiled with Section 11 of the Environmental Protection Act when it granted an Environmental Permit to Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) for the Yellowtail Project.
Article 13 is among civil society organisations that have expressed concerned about the issuance of the permit without the requisite studies being done but EPA, in a statement on Monday, said the recent statements are not only erroneous but are intended to mislead the public.
“Any reasonable, balanced, and right-thinking member of the public will conclude, that at all times, the EPA followed the law and the EIA process, including that of the Yellowtail Development Project was in keeping with Section 11 of the EP Act,” the protection agency said.

EPA was accused of not disclosing the Terms and Scope of the EIA study for the statutory 60-day period, however, the protection agency said it was simply not required to do so. It said based on the Environmental Protection Act, the EPA is mandated to set the Terms and Scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and in doing so, take into account any public submission during the 28-day notice. It was noted that the public can make written submissions.

“The EPA develops the Terms and Scope in consultation with the project developer’s EIA consultant/contractor according to the EP Act, Section 11(7) and (8). Therefore, it’s at the discretion of the EPA to publish the Terms and Scope. What is important is that Section 11 (4) and (5) already sets out what every EIA must contain and consider,” the Protection Agency further explained.
Noting that it is always looking for opportunities to improve the process, EPA said it will, nonetheless, ensure that the Terms and Scope are made available as necessary.

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EPA also refuted claims that it did not follow the procedures under the Environmental Protection Act for shortlisting eligible consultants to conduct EIAs, explaining that it is currently in the process of developing a fair and robust system for compiling a list of approved persons with appropriate qualifications and experience to conduct EIAs.
“In the interim, the EPA approves consultants on a case by case basis, informed by their respective qualifications and experience in conducting EIAs similar to the type of project in question,” it said while noting that it is not required to screen the proposed consultant(s) with assistance for international environmental groups.

“Compilation of the list as mentioned in Section 3 (a) of the EPAct is a separate function, and not directly material to a case-by-case approval,” EPA said while adding that “many of the consultants approved are members of international Professional Environmental Impact Assessment Associations, which lends credibility regarding their qualifications and experience to conduct EIAs.”
It was keen on noting that from the early stages of the Yellowtail Project, the EPA facilitated a number of consultative sessions with local stakeholders, who were permitted to make submissions as required by the law. The notice on the EIA was published in May, 2021.
“The EPA went above and beyond at its discretion, to ensure public participation, by hosting several public meetings virtually and in person in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 during the months of July and August 2021. The public submissions were considered in preparing the final Terms and Scope for the conduct of the EIA,” it said.

It said when the EIA/EIS were submitted to the EPA on October 15, 2021, the project proponent published a notice confirming same and inviting members of the public to make any submissions as they consider appropriate.
Further, in approving the project and issuing an Environmental Permit, the EPA said it complied with the requirement of the Environmental Protection Act and considered the submissions made.

“…the EPA secured an independent international expert to support the EPA’s internal review of the EIA. The public comments were provided to and were considered by the international expert. The findings and recommendations of this review along with the submissions from the public were submitted to the EAB, it added.
This review period commenced on January 18, 2022, and concluded on March 25, 2022, with the EAB’s indication of acceptance.
EPA granted its approval on March 30, 2022 in the form of the Environmental Permit.



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