– as Govt seeks to determine agency’s preparedness for oil & gasBy Jarryl BryanThe Department of Energy (DE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both got enormous roles to play as regulators in Guyana’s Oil and Gas sector. One plan on the agenda is to have a consultant brought in to verify how prepared the EPA really is for this task.This was explained by head of the Department of Energy, Dr. Mark Bynoe, during his first press conference with the media recently. According to Bynoe, the DE is in the process of recruiting such a consultant.“We understand that, for the department to be strong, its sister agencies must alsoExecutive Director of the EPA, Dr Vincent Adamsbe supportive. In this vein, through consultations with the Environmental Protection Agency, the department is also recruiting a consultant to conduct a needs assessment of the EPA, and its preparedness for regulating the sector from an environmental perspective.”“Once this needs assessment is completed, we will be better able to provide the necessary support to build the capacity of the EPA,” Bynoe related, adding that his department will have a heavy focus on taking a “minimalist approach” to resource management.According to Bynoe, the EPA will not be the only agency his department will work closely with. He said collaborative efforts will be made with mandated agencies like the Audit Office of Guyana (AOG), and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). Even as preparations for first oil are being made, Bynoe stressed that changes would not happen overnight.“Every mile starts with one step. We’re not going to get there tomorrow; we will not get there next week. But we are certain that with the right people, right focus and right emphasis, we will get there,” Bynoe said.Last month, energy expert and scientist Dr. Vincent Adams was appointedDepartment of Energy Head, Dr Mark BynoeExecutive Director of the EPA. His appointment came at a time when questions were being raised about the agency’s abilities to regulate oil companies in Guyana from an environmental standpoint.When Exxon Mobil’s subsidiary Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd’s (EEPGL’s) submitted its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for its Liza Phase 2 development, an outside consultant was brought in to assist the EPA in reviewing it.A contract to the tune of $40.3 million was awarded to international firm Ramboll US Corporation in order to undertake the review, though the costs were reportedly borne by the oil company.Threat of oil spillsThe EPA did a study of its own, and found that while an oil spill in the Stabroek block was possible, factors such as the location of EEPGL operations combined with the region’s water temperature would minimise the effects.Auditor General Deodat Sharma had previously announced that the Audit Office would be carrying out a number of audits to analyse the capacity of the country’s relevant agencies to protect the environment and endangered species of animals.“As you know, North West (Region One) has the four turtle species. We have to preserve those, because we don’t want to have an oil spill; and it could beIt is important that the ecosystem and its creatures are catered fordangerous. I remember, several years ago, there was the cyanide overspill. It had an effect on the environment in the interior,” Sharma had said.This is a reference to the cyanide spill in Guyana in 1995. In gold mining, cyanide is used as an extracting agent for the ore. In the case of Guyana’s cyanide spill, the highly poisonous material spilled out of a reservoir into the Essequibo River.Guyana does have a draft Oil Spill Contingency Plan, for which consultations were held earlier this year. Besides the obvious need to protect the environment and the livelihoods of persons residing on the coast, there are various international conventions that stipulate countries have a plan for any oil spill.The Stabroek Block is 6.6 million acres. EEPGL is the operator and hold a 45 per cent interest in the Stabroek Block. Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd. holds a 30 per cent interest, and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Limited holds a 25 per cent interest.