EPA responds to erroneous Kaieteur News articles about gas-to-energy project

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken note of two erroneous articles in the Kaieteur News. The first article was published on Saturday, July 10, 2021, under the headline, “EPA replaces new guidelines with outdated model 6 days before asking ExxonMobil to do EIA for US$900M gas to energy project,” and the second, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, under the headline, “Public Consultations, a farce masquerading as disclosure.” 

The EPA hereby issues the following corrections: 

Environmental Guidelines 

• The new set of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines were retracted pending more extensive consultation to adequately reflect the contributions from diverse stakeholders through wider public participation. This action is not related to any project seeking environmental authorization from the Agency. 

• The retracted guidelines were not restricted to oil and gas, but rather were a suite of guidelines relevant to a number of sectors, including mining, forestry, hydropower, thermal power and electricity transmission. 

• Guidelines are not mandatory for the conduct of EIAs. The EPA therefore reiterates that the retraction of the 2020 guidelines will in no way affect the quality of the EIA. The EPA is working assiduously to have additional consultations on these guidelines before they are finalized. 

Conduct of EIAs 

• Section 11 (8) of the Environmental Protection Act states: “The Agency after consultation with the person chosen to carry out the environmental impact assessment, sets the terms and scope of the environmental impact assessment, taking into account any submissions made from members of the public.” The EPA always ensures that EIAs are conducted by independent and suitably qualified persons or entities approved by the Agency. 

• The Environmental Protection Act and terms and scope developed for each project seeking environmental authorization are what’s important to guide the conduct of an EIA and not only any available Guidelines. 

• The meetings currently being conducted for the ‘Gas to Energy’ project are public scoping meetings. The primary purpose of a public scoping meeting is to obtain from members of the public those questions and matters which they require to be answered or considered in the EIA.

• Publication of Notice: The EPA is only required by law to publish a notice of its decision that an EIA is required for a project, notifying that the public has 28 days from the date of publication to make written submissions to the Agency, setting out those questions and matters which they require to be answered or considered in the EIA. 

Section 11 (7) of the Act states as follows: 

“Members of the public shall have twenty-eight days from the date of publication of the notice to make written submissions to the Agency setting out those questions and matters which they require to be answered or considered in the environmental impact assessment.” 

• It is for this reason, that in addition to the public notice, the EPA at its discretion, holds public scoping meetings to allow for greater public input into the terms and scope for the  conduct of the EIA. Moreover, public scoping meetings cannot provide information on findings of potential impacts, since the EIA has not been conducted. 

• Further, consultations are required to be done during the conduct of the EIA, section 11 (9) of the EP Act. It is the duty of the consultants to engage with members of the public, interested bodies and organizations during the conduct of the EIA. 

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