The Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) has identified some gaps in Ghana’s Petroleum environmental laws and regulations, pointing out that the Laws, to a larger extent, do not conform to international best practices.
Ghana enacted some environmental laws and regulations to govern environmental issues in the oil and gas sector. These regulations are contained in the Environmental Protection Act, the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, The Petroleum Exploration and Production Act 2016, Act 919, Health Safety and Environmental Regulation, 2017 among others.
However, Mr Augustine Niber, Executive Director of CEPIL, maintains that, “These environmental laws and regulations to a lager extend has not taken into account the international environmental best practices and has thus not being in tone with globally changing views on petroleum environmental regulations following the major impact that oil spills such asthat from the deep water Horizone (2010) had on the environment and society.”
Mr Niber added, “it is our considered view that Environmental Protection Agencies and other sector agencies responsible for ensuring environmental safety in the oil and gas sector should take the lead in ensuring the laws and regulations governing petroleum exploration in the country meet international best practices.”
Speaking to Journalist recently at a workshop to discuss a Policy Brief on the Gap Analysis Of Ghana’sEnvironmental Laws And Regulations, Mr Niber said the most important areas in the petroleum exploration environmental governance which have not been adequately or insufficiently catered for and are not in accord with international environmental best practices include; Environmental Impact Assessment, Water Pollution, Venting and Flaring,Well Plugging and Abandonment, Blowout Prevention, Decommissioning and Decommissioning Fund .
According to him, each phase of petroleum development from reconnaissance to decommissioning, poses adverse threat to the environment and Ghana’s Environmental impact assessment laws are inadequate to ensure that environmental impact from early-stage
Petroleum activities are fully identified and evaluated for the benefit of decision makers and the public.
He called for public participation and strict environmental review provisions to be incorporated into the process of awarding of permits for these early stage activities.
He also emphasized the need to amend the EIA regulations to ensure that all phase of petroleum development undergo rigorous scrutiny to identify and minimize potential environmental impact, adding that the “EPA should develop a set of sector specificguidelines for EIAs.This will help improve the overall quality and consistency of EIAs for petroleum development and ensure that fullrange of impact is properly evaluated and disclosed to the decision makers and the public.
In the area of Water Pollution, Mr Niber observed that there are very few provisions in Ghana’s petroleum and environmental law addressing the disposal of large volume of waste from oil and gas activities.
In this regard, Executive Director recommended that Ghana’s Petroleum or environmental laws should provide clear parameter for disposing produced water and other waste. He said the state should consider adopting standards including Zero -discharge restriction a well as effluent standards for offshore.
Among other things, the government is being advised to consider instituting a system in which the Petroleum Commissionvets and certifies verification organization.
By Mohammed Suleman