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Petrotrin fined $20m by EMA
State-owned oil and gas company Petrotrin has been fined $20 million, to date, by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for its role in 11 oil spills which has been devastating flora and fauna in the south-western peninsula. EMA chairman Dr Allan Bachan made the disclosure to the media yesterday at the authority’s St Clair, Port-of-Spain, office. Declining to give a breakdown of the figures, he said an assessment of violations by Petrotrin was ongoing.
EMA deputy chairman Michael Rooplal said it was not the first time the authority had taken legal action against a state entity but it was certainly the largest fine ever imposed. Bachan, saying he could not disclose more information, listed only four of the company’s violations of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance issued to it by the EMA in 2006:
• the failure to submit for approval the required methods for the disposal and treatment of waste generated from the oil spills
• to report all accidents, emergencies and spills within the stipulated time frame
• to comply with health and air-monitoring requirements
• to submit a complete written report of the incident.
He said some of the violations were “ongoing,” like improper monitoring and submitting of reports, which could have led to the spills. “The oil spill is the effect of actions that were not in conformity to the CEC...You can’t separate one from the other,” he said. Bachan said Petrotrin was served last week with the Notices of Violations and after discussions, a consent agreement stating the company was fined $20 million was signed yesterday.
Petrotrin’s president Khalid Hassanali commenting on the latest development said he found the measures taken by the EMA to be harsh. Bachan said the EMA had been criticised for its treatment of the incident but said its Compliance and Enforcement team has sustained a presence on the affected sites and has been meticulously reviewing CECs relating to the incident.
The EMA’s announcement came a week after Environment Minister Ganga Singh warned of a coming non-compliance notice to be served on the oil company which he said could attract a daily fine of US$50,000-plus. The Guardian also reported last week that a preliminary investigation into the oil spills, commissioned by Petrotrin itself, revealed the failed pipeline behind the first major leak may not have been inspected for nearly two decades.
On Monday, several Petrotrin workers were suspended in connection with this first spill. Bachan said the $20 million the EMA got from Petrotrin will be used towards the assessment, remediation and rehabilitation of the impacted sites which will include the following activities:
• determination of sources of the oil spills into the Gulf of Paria
• monitoring work to assess the environmental impact of the spill and clean-up activities
• initiating of studies for a comprehensive set of monitoring data and the determination of the overall impact of the spill on environmental resources in the area
• development of a long-term remediation and rehabilitation action plan to address the environmental impacts.