ExxonMobil seeking ‘appropriate resolution’ as EPA threatens court action over fine

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Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will be moving to the court soon as a result of ExxonMobil’s decision not to pay the fine imposed over hydraulic fluid spills that occurred earlier this year at the offshore Stabroek Block. The company says it is seeking an appropriate resolution to the issue since its interpretation of the Environmental Protection Act differs from that of the EPA.

ExxonMobil, operator at the Stabroek Block, was fined jointly with two of its contractors for three hydraulic fluid spills which occurred while conducting offshore operations.

“They’ve indicated that they will not be paying the small fine of one hundred thousand [Guyana] dollars so that will be our course of action. Unless they pay sometime soon, that will be our only course of action,” EPA Director, Dr. Vincent Adams, told OilNOW on Wednesday.   

The EPA Director said the fine was imposed because the agency believes the company and its contractors violated the conditions of the permit.

However, ExxonMobil Guyana Public and Government Affairs Advisor, Janelle Persaud, said the company’s view of the incident differs from that of the EPA.

“The spills of the non-toxic, biodegradable fluids were as little as 2.5 liters in one instance and were reported to the EPA in a timely manner. They caused no impact to the environment,” she said. “We continue to engage the Environmental Protection Agency on our differing interpretation of the Act and facts surrounding the incidents and will continue to seek an appropriate resolution.”

“It’s not so much about the amount that is being spilled, but the importance of them following their own procedures and the manufacturers recommendations or instructions for maintenance of equipment,” Dr. Adams said.

In addition to oil production activities at the Liza field, ExxonMobil is conducting multiple campaigns throughout the 6.6 million acres Stabroek Block which include exploration, appraisal, and development drilling. Persaud said conducting these operations in a manner that is safe to both its workforce and the environment, is a top priority.

“We go to great lengths to prevent unplanned releases and require our contractors to do the same. Where possible, we and our contractors use automatic shut-off equipment and secondary containment systems that limit any spill to minor amounts,” she pointed out.  

The Public and Government Affairs Advisor said while the company manages its business with the goal of preventing such incidents, it is prepared should accidents occur to respond quickly and effectively to mitigate any potential impact.

“We are making every effort to learn from these incidents and apply preventative steps as identified, holding our contractors to the same standard,” Ms. Persaud stated.

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