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PSC “profoundly” concerned over impact of Justice Kissoon’s ruling on oil-spill insurance

SEE BELOW THE STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR COMMISSION (PSC): 

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) is profoundly concerned over the controversy which has arisen with regard to the recent judgement of the Honourable Justice Sandil Kissoon, handed down in the Collins & Whyte vs The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) matter and which has generated considerable public discussion with regard to the Financial Assurance Obligation of ExxonMobil stipulated in its environmental permit for the Liza Phase One project in the highly unlikely event of an oil spill.   

The Commission is heartened by the overwhelming interest being shown by the many Guyanese who are actively participating in the debate to ensure that adequate protection is put in place in the event of any disaster in the sector. 

Th Private Sector Commission is, of course, bound by the fact that the case is sub-judice as are the Government of Guyana, ExxonMobil and, indeed, all who publicly comment on this matter. It is, however, of considerable significance to the very future of our country and an understanding of the possible consequences of this judgement, that the Attorney General, Hon. Anil Nandlall, has thought fit to emphasize that: “the Government’s developmental agenda is inexplicably bound to the revenues and economic activities generated from and by the oil and gas sector”. The Attorney General goes on to point out that the “local, as well as foreign investment in this industry, is immeasurable. Job creation opportunities are unprecedented and the spin-offs from this sector into every area of national endeavor are easily recognizable”.

We are aware that both the government, through the Environmental Protection Agency, and ExxonMobil, have filed appeals against the judgement of Justice Kissoon, which we look forward to ultimately clarifying the legal issues at stake with a view to have an amicable resolution. 

In the meantime, the Private Sector Commission invites all of Guyana to give serious thought and reflection to where our country is today in terms of the significant infrastructure and transformative developments which have already taken place and their impact on each and every one of our lives and where our country was before the discovery and production by Exxon of our oil and gas.  

The capital investments made by Exxon and their partners are already quite extraordinary for our country of less than a million people, amounting to date, of US$20B in the Stabroek Block and committed investments amounting to some US$45B. We have already begun to benefit hugely from these investments which are projected to exceed some US$200B over their lifetime.

This influx of massive amounts of Capital investments and Foreign Direct Investment has led to the unprecedent demand of unskilled, skilled and technical labour resulting in significant increases in salaries in the Private Sector alone. Consider four years ago, unskilled labourers earned GY$3,000 to GY$4,000 per day; today, that same labourer earns between GY$8,000 to GY$10,000. This significant increase in wages is replete in all spheres of employment across Guyana as a result of the Oil & Gas Sector.

Consider also, the thousands of small and medium scale businesses that have been created/developed in Guyana over the past few years and are finally gaining a foot hold in a thriving and dynamic economy. These businesses have benefited from Tens of Billions of dollars being spent annually across all sectors and across all regions of Guyana. 

Consider also, the substantial road and bridge capital works of highways extending across the length and breath of our country, opening up the massive potential for agricultural and mining development and transportation of goods and services. 

It is inconceivable that any sensible Guyanese would consider reversing this massive progress but, yes, every sensible Guyanese must also consider the absolute need to also sustain and protect our environment and guard against the unlikely and highly improbable event of an oil spill and its consequential fallout. 

We are, therefore, pleased to recognize that the government is already well advanced in meeting this challenge in its approach to ExxonMobil.

The government has confirmed that it is actively involved, through the EPA, in the process of determining that ExxonMobil Guyana and its Stabroek Block partners are, first, technologically committed to the prevention of a major accident of any kind occurring and have agreed to seek affiliate guarantees and provide financial resources committed to meeting their obligations, should there be such an occurrence. 

The PSC was reassured, and we believe that the country should be also, by the commitment made by the President of ExxonMobil Guyana, Mr. Alistair Routledge, at yesterday’s (19th May) Press Conference, that ExxonMobil is prepared “at any time to do the right thing”.  

The Private Sector Commission believes and support the fact that significant strides and attention is being paid by all stakeholders in Guyana to ensure continuous and sustainable development. The Private Sector Commission will continue to advocate for national development in an environmentally safe manner, which benefits all Guyanese throughout the length and breadth of Guyana. Guyana’s Oil and Gas Industry is the vehicle which promises to take us to that realization.

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