The Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA) notes with concern the misleading editorial of the Trinidad Guardian dated January 1, 2014 headlined, “Oil spill contingency plan collapses.”
Contrary to what was said in that editorial, the facts are that the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan has served and continues to serve its purpose in dealing with the La Brea oil spill incident.
The MEEA further advises for the record that:
1. A National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) is designed to deal with all oil spill situations. The plan provides for dealing with oil impacting beaches and mangrove areas as well as providing the parameters for clean-up of these areas. The plan was not developed to prevent oil spills. It was developed to respond to oil spills in keeping with International Maritime Organization (IMO) mandates. The current plan, which was prepared in 2013, replaces the 1977 version.
2. Shortly after the oil spill in La Brea was reported on December 18, 2013, the MEEA established the NOSCP Tier 2 Incident Command Team (ICT) to assist Petrotrin with the management of this oil spill incident.
3. The NOSCP ICT comprises representatives from the MEEA, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), the Coast Guard, the Air Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) and was established in accordance with procedures of the NOSCP.
4. As the situation unfolded it was determined that international assistance was required and the Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs then invoked Tier 3, the highest level of the NOSCP on December 22, 2013.
5. On December 17 and 18 respectively, Petrotrin established two (2) Incident Command Centres at the Marine Operations Base in Point Fortin and the Point Fortin Central Production offices to address cleanup, remediation, community and environmental issues. Petrotrin established its
centralized Incident Command Centre on December 23 for Tier 3 management of the spill. Liaison officers were established with Petrotrin’s centralized ICT and the NOSCP ICT to facilitate coordination between these ICTs.
6. The NOSCP requires that Health, Safety and Security systems are in place for responders and the NOSCP ICT ensured that corrective actions were taken so that air quality was monitored continuously on site in the La Brea area. Responders wore the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and that risk assessments were conducted for all work done.
7. The NOSCP ICT ensured that sampling and fingerprinting were conducted to assist with the determination of the type of oil spilled and the source of the spill. Work continues in this area and it is expected that trajectory modelling results will be provided shortly to assist in this area.
8. Equipment and consumables from Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA were flown into Trinidad on December 23, 2013. Its speedy entry within Trinidad was facilitated through the NOSCP ICT, securing the existence and co-operation of the Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy. Trained personnel from the USA and the United Kingdom OSRL arrived in Trinidad between December 23 and 24, 2013 to provide technical assistance with the spill. Provisions for these are contained in the NOSCP and thus were executed successfully.
9. Most of the oil spill which affected coastline areas south of La Brea to Cedroshas been successfully addressed and clean-up work is nearing completion. Further surveillance, monitoring and appropriate cleaning and clearing continue to be conducted via the Petrotrin/Trinmar normal HSE Response Services. This is a testament to the activation of Petrotrin Trinmar oil spill plan and the NOSCP.
10. Residents of La Brea were employed in clean-up efforts as part of Petrotrin’s Land North East (LNE) oil spill plan in accordance with guidelines in arrangements and the NOSCP, which makes provisions for employment of local labour.
11. The NOSCP ICT worked with the Siparia Regional Corporation and the ODPM to ensure that a shelter was opened for the affected residents of the La Brea area.
12. The NOSCP ICT also coordinated arrangements with the Ministry of National Security aerial support for the incident to monitor oil-impacted areas and to effectively put in place mechanisms to clean up areas that were not accessible by ground transportation.
13. The NOSCP ICT vets all response strategies proposed by Petrotrin for clean-up activities in accordance with the provisions of the NOSCP.
14. The NOSCP ICT continues to oversee the operations of Petrotrin and its contractors to ensure that clean-up activities are performed to completion and the situation is brought to normalcy in accordance with the NOSCP guidelines.
15. Regarding containment of the spills, the NOSCP ICT put in place measures to prevent migration of oil in a southerly direction as this is the direction the oil is expected to move along the coastal area in that region. This has assisted, to date, in preventing beaches south of La Brea from becoming further impacted by the oil spills.
16. The NOSCP ICT has worked tirelessly since the oil spills’ inception and continues to manage this oil spill within the provisions of the NOSCP.
It is manifestly clear therefore that, based on the measures put in place and the policies adopted, the NOSCP has not collapsed as suggested by the Guardian’s editorial. That editorial also said that the Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs had not made a comprehensive statement on the issue of the oil spill. The facts would show that the Honourable Minister has visited La Brea on three occasions. On each occasion he updated the media on the beach. He has appeared twice on early morning talk shows and has addressed the post-Cabinet press conference of December 23, 2013 on the matter.
As new information comes to hand, updates will be provided on measures to contain the oil spills, determine their causes, address the environmental issues and put in place effective medium and long-term measures to prevent their reoccurrence.
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