The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is emphasising the importance of public participation in the ongoing scoping meetings for ExxonMobil’s Yellowtail Development Project. The Agency said the consultations provide an opportunity for questions and concerns from members of the public to be recorded for inclusion in the Terms of Reference (ToR) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
EPA’s Senior Environmental Officer, Candacie Brower-Thompson in her presentation at the consultation, reminded that the Agency is the only established organisation that has responsibility for overseeing the EIA. Among the Agency’s mandate is the responsibility of assessing the impact of economic developments on the environment and sustainable use of natural resources. This is done via the EIA.
“It is a decision making tool which assesses the consequences of a particular project on the environment,” she said. Brower-Thompson added that the Environmental Protection Act requires an EIA for any project that may significantly impact the environment and before an environmental permit is issued.
She also pointed out that the EIA must be conducted for the project using independent consultants approved by the EPA. In a message to the attendees at the scoping meeting on Wednesday, she said that when the EPA receives an application, it is screened and placed into one of two categories–where an EIA is required, and an EIA is not required.
This assessment will allow the EPA to engage the public and other stakeholders to indicate how they may be affected by the particular project.
“The EPA is responsible for setting the terms and scope for the conduct of the independent consultant and of course, ensure the public considerations and concerns as well as their questions are captured in the terms and study,” the Environmental Officer added.
“It must determine the potential impacts of the projects and how to minimise or prevent them. This then allows the EPA to set conditions for the project to operate so as to protect human health and the environment,” she said.
When a project summary for a development is submitted, a notice is published for 28 days inviting members of the public to make recommendations on what should be captured in the EIA study. Those recommendations are considered in the development of the terms and scope for the EIA study.
During the conduct of the EIA, the developer and their independent consultants are required to consult with specific stakeholders to ensure that their concerns are captured in the EIA. Then, when the EIA is received by the Agency, a notice is published, giving the public 60 days to make submissions on whether they think their concerns were adequately captured in the EIA study.
“In this COVID dynamic, scoping meetings are also being conducted virtually,” Brower-Thompson said, adding that these engagements give participants a chance to make suggestions on what the EIA study should cover.
“Scoping meetings give important information about the project. At scoping meetings, the developer and approved consultant will share a lot of important information about the project and how they think the project will affect the environment and how they intend to carry out the EIA study,” she stated.
During the scoping meetings that are now being held, questions, concerns and comments are recorded for consideration in the EIA process.