Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it routinely assesses all projects submitted for approval to determine their impacts on the environment and human health. This entails a comprehensive screening process which includes evaluation of the information submitted, site inspection to validate that information and collection of baseline data.
The Agency has been playing a vital role in the assessment and approval of a growing number of projects in the oil and gas sector, driven by the rapidly increasing activities offshore the South American country.
In a statement last week, the EPA said it has a science-based screening tool, developed with the assistance of an experienced consultant under a national project, which aids in ensuring its decisions are scientifically sound.
“The screening process is in tandem with the Environmental Protection Act, Cap. 20:05 and the decision is based on requirements under the Act. In accordance with Section 11(2) of the Environmental Protection Act, where it is not clear whether a project will significantly affect the environment, the developer shall submit to the Agency a summary of the project with specific information prescribed by the Act,” the EPA said.
The Agency is then required to publish its decision on whether the project will not significantly affect the environment, and therefore exempt from the requirement for an environmental impact assessment (EIA), or may significantly affect the environment and will require an EIA.
An EIA is a comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of a proposed project and the mitigation measures to address potential adverse impacts. It provides background information and results of all assessments conducted to assess the relative environmental impacts associated with reasonable and feasible alternatives to the proposed project. The EIA must also satisfy the statutory processes and requirements of the Act.
Just recently, the Agency assessed an application submitted by oilfield services company Schlumberger for the establishment of a source storage and calibration facility and determined the project will not significantly affect the environment or human health and is therefore exempt from the requirement for an EIA.
“In cases where an EIA is not required, the Agency requests various types of environment and social safeguards; one such requirement is an Environmental Management Plan (EMP),” the EPA said. This is an environmental management tool used to ensure that undue or reasonably avoidable adverse impacts of the construction, operation and decommissioning of a project are prevented, and that the positive benefits of the projects are enhanced.
“An EMP is recognised as a tool that can be used to provide assurance that developers make suitable provisions for counteracting negative impacts that may occur through project implementation and operation,” the EPA said. “An EMP captures baselines data, compliance monitoring, impact monitoring, reporting and record keeping as well as an Emergency Response Plan.”
The EPA said all Chemical Storage/treatment facilities are also required to develop and submit an EMP, including a Waste Acceptance Criteria and a Waste Management Plan.
“An EIA is not required for all projects and the EPA remains committed to assessing every project with the need to protect and improve human health and living conditions as well as the environment,” the Agency stated.