Head of Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kemraj Parsram has disclosed that efforts are afoot to draft an overarching policy on the use of dispersants in the oil sector.
Dispersants are chemicals that are sprayed on a surface oil slick to break down the oil into smaller droplets that more readily mix with the water. This has the potential to negatively impact marine life.
During a recent interview, Parsram categorically stated that dispersants must be an absolute last resort during cleanup of an unmitigated oil spill while adding that oil operators must be cognizant of this approach.
“Dispersants are at the forefront of our (legal) review currently and we are discussing it with the operators and what we want to be clear about is developing a policy on only when we will allow the use of dispersants,” he said. “In the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), they (oil companies) provide what you call a net environmental benefit analysis and there are various tiers for particular spills and what approaches and methods and technology would be used.”
He said in keeping with international practice, only when all other approaches or methods have been exhausted to contain and clean up an oil spill, will dispersants be used. “We are trying to have that understanding and ensure all other means must be exhausted before using that, and of course, looking at the environmental impacts it may have.”
As regards the entire legal framework governing the operations of the EPA, Parsram asserted that the Act and accompanying regulations are currently being reviewed. When this process is completed, the EPA will be able to determine what needs to be addressed in the Act, if anything at all.
He was keen to note that while the Act dates back to 1996, it remains effective.
“From my experience, it is broad and all-encompassing and can therefore be applied to any situation and any sector,” Parsram stated. “It is a very good Act in terms of what it intends to do for environmental management and on the mandate of the EPA.”
He said what may be required is the promulgation of specific regulations such as those for compliance and enforcement and clarity on certain matters.
“But our review internally and help from elsewhere will help us to determine the way forward on this where necessary,” the EPA Head concluded.