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EPA consults on oil and gas exploration in Margibi

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The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has conducted Stakeholders’ Consultation in Marshall City, Margibi County on Block LB-13 for offshore Oil and Gas exploration between Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties.

The consultation, attended by relevant government ministries, agencies, environmental NGOs and civil society organizations, was held under the auspices of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in compliance with the Environment Protection and Management Law of the Republic of Liberia.

According to a press release, EPA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Madam Anyaa Vohiri called on the participants to get fully involved and substantially participate in the consultative forum by taking ownership of the discussions.

“Ask all of the questions you have to open your mind to the ExxonMobil’s consultants work for better understanding so that together, we all make the decision of giving or not giving environmental permit to ExxonMobil to carry out the exploration”, Madam Vohiri said..

Earlier, Margibi County Superintendent John Buway welcomed participants of the consultative forum and noted that it was important for the local population to clearly understand the technical document and modus operandi of ExxonMobil.

Mr. Buway told the gathering that decisions made from the forum should be one that Liberian children, especially those in Margibi and Grand Bassa should smile from hereafter and in the future. Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kafey, said it was vital for benefits arising from concession to be enjoyed by project affected communities, particularly education, health and other social benefits.

Senator Kafey promised to send additional notes from the people of Grand Bassa County. Though he did not specially state the content of the expected note, it may be based on social benefits that the people of the county want to receive should ExxonMobil succeed in its exploration.

Speaking at the close of the forum, Grand Bassa County Representative Gabriel Smith hinted that the presentation by Earthtime was good, and clears the doubts of participants. He expressed hope that ExxonMobil will create more job opportunities for the people of Liberia, while calling on the EPA boss Madam Anyaa Vohiri to contact his office as hearings about the national budget are ongoing to help in her quest for funds to train more EPA employees in strategic areas of the environment.

The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study reports were jointly conducted by Earthtime, a local environmental firm and Acorn international, an international firm on behalf of ExxonMobil. Earthtime in Country Project Coordinator and Research Director Mr. Wassim Hamdan, power pointed the technical work and explained both the pros and cons and mitigation measures in the event of unexpected happenings in the operation of ExxonMobil.

Drilling well is expected to start late 2016 or early 2017. The well will likely be about 90km south of Monrovia and 80km off the coast in about 2400m of water and will take approximately 45 to 65 days.

The issues of waste management, liability in the event of pollution resulting from spill, safety of marine ecosystem among others were raised during the question and answer period, and were subsequently clarified. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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