Former Head of Transparency International Guyana Inc. (TIGI), Dr. Troy Thomas has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for issuing to ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd., permits which are in violation of the agency’s regulations.
In the lawsuit, Dr. Thomas specifically cited the EPA’s Regulation No. 19, which limits the issuance of permits to five years. The permit for Liza Phase One, however, was granted to Esso on June 1, 2017 and continues until December 31, 2040 i.e. for twenty-three (23) years and seven (7) months. The permit for Liza Phase Two was granted for 24 years.
With this in mind, Dr. Thomas is requesting that the court end (cancel) the environmental permits that were issued to Esso and instruct the EPA to issue corrected permits ending within the five-year period set by the regulations, and prohibit the issuance of permits for longer than five years.
In his affidavit, Dr. Thomas warned that the breach of Regulation 19, “Exposes Guyana and the rest of the world to serious, if not irreparable, harm and adverse consequences from climate change” as evidenced by rising temperature extremes, more intense and dangerous storms, massive floods, and extended droughts. Dr. Thomas also warned that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they continue to absorb greenhouse gases, leading to the death of corals and a direct impact on Guyana’s rich fisheries.
In an invited comment, Dr. Thomas’ lawyer, Melinda Janki, noted that the approval of a permit duration in clear contravention of applicable law reflects a larger pattern of procedural failures. She said, “The law clearly states that an environmental impact assessment must describe the direct and indirect effects of a project on the climate and on marine areas. Esso’s environmental impact assessments did not do that. The EIA for Liza One was seriously data deficient and based on assumptions that go largely unexplained and unexamined.”
Most tellingly, Janki observed, that the environmental permit for Liza One says that it was issued the same day the massive EIA was submitted. The environmental permit for Liza Phase One, states that it was granted on the basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment dated June 1, 2017. But the environmental permit was also dated June 1, 2017. Janki said, “When did the Agency review the 1,500 pages EIA? And what else did they miss? Guyana’s people deserve a candid assessment of this project—because they are the ones who will live with its consequences.”
Guyana Standard understands that the case is scheduled to be heard on September 21, 2020, in the Constitutional and Administrative Division. Dr Thomas is represented by Seenath Jairam SC, Ms Melinda Janki and Mr Pratesh Satram.
Since receiving the permit and commencing operations in December 2019, ExxonMobil has flared an estimated 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Company and EPA officials have attributed the flaring to a faulty component in the gas reinjection system. Despite promises by Exxon that the problem would be remedied and the flaring cease by August 15, the company has recently acknowledged the mechanical issues persist and that flaring is ongoing. (https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/08/21/business/21reuters-guyana-oil-exxonmobil.html?searchResultPosition=2)