State owned oil company fined over oil spills
he Environmental Management Authority (EMA) says it has slapped a TT$20 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) fine on the state-owned oil company, PETROTRIN, over 11 spills that have seriously affected residents and the environment in the south of Trinidad and Tobago.
In a statement, EMA said that the oil company had failed to submit for approval the required methods for the disposal and treatment of waste generated from the oil spills as well as failing to report all accidents, emergencies and spills within the stipulated time frame.
PETROTRIN was also accused of failing to comply with health and air-monitoring requirements as well as to submit a complete written report of the incident that began on December 17 and which the company has sought to blame saboteurs for at least two of the spills.
EMA chief executive officer Dr Allan Bachan said that the fine would go towards rehabilitation of areas affected by the spills and also towards consistent testing of various aspects of the environment, including air and water quality.
Bachan said it was not the concern of the EMA to ascertain whether the spills were as a result of sabotage and that the company failed to monitor its assets, which could under the circumstances include adequate security presence that could have prevented the spills.
Last weekend EMA served two notices of violations on PETROTRIN for four breaches of the EMA Act and Bachan said while his organization had been criticised for its apparent failure to become involved following the spills, it must be guided by the legislation available.
“This is unprecedented. We are seeing environmental issues cropping up now that are not considered in the Act,” Bachan said, acknowledging that the legislation was somewhat outdated.
The EMA said that the fine on the oil company would also be used to determine the sources of the oil spills into the Gulf of Paria as well as establish a “Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment” team to undertake reconnaissance surveys of damaged resources and select study sites for damage assessment.
EMA is also promising the development of a long term “Remediation and Rehabilitation Action Plan to address the environmental impacts and initiate monitoring and studies of the effects of the oil spill on the environment” and the development of an environmental impact mitigation and assessment response framework.
In an immediate response, PETROTRIN’s president Khalid Hassanali described the EMA action as “harsh”.
“Having regard to the quick response that PETROTRIN undertook and the care for the persons and environment, I think the measures taken by the EMA were rather harsh,” he added.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary representatives for the areas affected by the oil spills say they want the matter discussed at the next sitting of the Trinidad and Tobago parliament on Friday.
The Parliament is still on the Christmas recess but opposition legislators, Fitzgerald Jeffrey and Paula Gopee-Scoon, in a joint statement said they want the spills to be discussed as matters of urgent public importance.
The legislators in their statement said the parliament should discuss, “the recent large oil spills in the coastal region of the south western peninsula of Trinidad and the government’s failure to adequately address the very serious resultant effects.”
They said they would also raise “PETROTRIN’s incapacity and unpreparedness in their response to the very damaging oil spills and the effect on the people, fishing and tourism industries and the environment”.