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Guyana's Exxon deal must be renegotiated

I find yesterday’s Stabroek News report that the Guyana EPA will be taking Exxon to court for the failure to pay fines of US$2,600 for 3 small oil spills to be very troubling. People of Guyana, do you believe this nonsense? Things like these are why the Oil and Gas Network (OGGN – www.oggn.org) has been advocating that President Ali and the Guyana government should renegotiate the bad oil agreements pronto.

The EPA said they had written Exxon after they failed to pay, giving them five days to respond. “They never even had the courtesy of replying…I want to say that the EPA is rather dumbfounded and disappointed that EEPGL (ExxonMobil’s subsidiary) has taken this belligerent position to not comply with the laws of Guyana in paying this fine, especially after so many recurrences of the same incident,” Director of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams, said Wednesday. This is the kind of disrespect, contempt and differential treatment commentators have been highlighting that Exxon has for the “shole” countries, while they show respect for rules of the first world countries.

It was reported that Exxon said they were minor spills that caused no environmental impact and that it was still looking at this country’s laws to determine if they should pay. People, can you imagine what would happen if there were to be a big oil spill that reached our coasts and fishing grounds? We are so ill prepared. This week there was a big fire and two of the three fire trucks did not have water, so why does anyone think Guyana can deal with an oil spill. Nation, do you see the kind of tragedy that can befall us if we don’t renegotiate these contracts now and clarify things?

Guyana’s EPA Act allows for zero discharge of any contaminant. Adams explained the fines for the oil spills were the maximum sum permitted – a paltry $100,000 each (US$500) for this type of three infractions in March-May this year.  “We fined both the company and the subcontractors for each incident,” he said. It would mean the EPA would have to be paid a total $600,000 (US$2,600). 

The nation wants to know what fines Exxon will pay for burning billions of cubic feet of gas due to faulty equipment? Maybe Exxon and the EPA would explain that one for us.

We call on the Government to correct these kinds of problems before we sign a similar bad agreement for the new wells in the oil block called “Payara.” We need a group of nationalist lawyers, similar to the “Guardians of Democracy” who protected ballot boxes, who would combine their talents and sue to defend our national patrimony, keeping the oil companies accountable. Maybe we can call them “The Guardians of Oil Brigade.” If not, we suffer together as a poor nation. “A hole in the boat, is a hole in the whole boat.” Now is the time for everyone to step up – all those new parties with fresh energy, the unions, NGOs, all churches, the farmers – to support the Government as we call for a renegotiation of the oil contracts.

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