Guyana High Court throws out EPA waiver of impact study to Schlumberger

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Guyana’s Supreme Court on Friday quashed a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) during the authorisation process for the construction and operation of a source storage and calibration building facility at Houston, on the East Bank of the Demerara River.

The ruling was handed down by Justice Nareshwar Harnanan.

The facility belongs to SLB, one of ExxonMobil’s major contractors in Guyana. SLB had sought environmental approval early 2021. The EPA determined that the project will not significantly affect the environment or human health and [is] therefore, exempt from the requirement for an EIA.

But some concerned residents of Houston – Danuta Radzik, Vanda Radzik and Raphael Singh – asked the High Court to declare unlawful, the EPA’s decision to waive the EIA. The applicants had argued that their health and community are at significant risk since they lived near the facility.

While the EPA decision left a 30-day window for appeals, the residents said the period had already elapsed by the time they saw the EPA’s notice. So, they turned to the court.

The EPA argued that the order sought by the applicants for the construction permit to be revoked could not be validated. After all, the facility was already built and had started operations.

Justice Harnanan said however that he is of the view that, in its consideration of the applications for environmental authorisation, the EPA cannot treat the operations permit independent of the construction permit.

He granted an order of certiorari in favor of the residents and squashed the EPA decision made in June 2021, to award an environmental authorisation to the company, on the grounds that it was ultra vires and in breach of the EPA’s statutory duty.

The Judge issued an injunction restraining SLB or its agents, from continuing the operations authorised by EPA at the facility, unless a “lawfully issued” permit is granted.

SLB was represented by law office Hughes, Fields and Stoby, while the EPA was represented by attorneys Shareefah Parks and Frances Carryl. The residents were represented by attorneys Siand Dhurjon, Ronald Burch-Smith and Malene Alleyne.

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