Energy Sector- Honest or Dishonest?
Date: October 26th, 2019
FFOS have served on the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency initiative steering committee for almost a decade. This week the Amcham CEO is quoted as stating that Energy companies in Trinidad and Tobago are honest. This is far from the truth!
On the contrary, it has been a long dishonest road for the energy companies and the Government, who has been acting in cahoots by not passing legislation which would make it mandatory that all energy and extractive companies report to the TTEITI. So far, of the dozens of hydrocarbon and mineral extractors, a mere handful have agreed to
comply with the EITI standard. Furthermore, the EITI standard is a very simple standard that declares what has been paid and what has been received in royalties or taxes and appears more as assisting the government auditors in a job that they apparently are not doing.
The EITI standard falls short of protecting the treasury because it does not give any regional or international comparative analysis of what value of royalty or tax is paid for what volume that is extracted (value for volume).
Thirdly, the Auditor General in his 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 reports laments that the volumes extracted are not subject to any Government oversight and are being based on an “honour system” where the extractor declares the volume extracted.
To say that energy companies or the Government are being “honest” with the people, is contrary to everything that we have fought for on the EITI, and what makes matters worse is that over the past decade that FFOS has sat on the TTEIEI steering committee, and under the agreement of the Steering Committee, we have evolved to include environmental reporting in the annual reports because damage to the environment is a value lost to Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, to the fishing industry. If you pollute the
sea, you destroy the economy of the sea.
It is dishonest to smother information of toxicity and ecosystem damage being done by the extractive sector. The first environmental report under the TTEIETI was published in 2016. In this latest report (2017), the extractors and Government representatives all voted against the inclusion of the environmental report which was endorsed by all the Civil Society members. This report quotes peer reviewed scientific studies, published
internationally, which show hydrocarbon contamination and measures cancer risks from the consumption of Gulf of Paria fish.
We argue that it is dishonest to smother and debar the publication of scientific thesis in the TTEITI report such as the professorial study which proves that seismic surveys destroy microorganisms, the foundation of the food chain.
Another report which Civil Society was debarred from publishing in the TTEITI was produced as part of the Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) project in the Caribbean region and measures mercury contamination in East Coast fish at more than five times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) standard for consuming fish. Is it honest to smother this type of critical public health information? Preventing a holistic picture of the energy sector is a denial of the public right, and so to
deliberately avoid the reproduction of scientific data in the TTEITI report is an act of honesty that cannot be commended.
What the TTEITI Extractor and Government steering committee members have chosen to do is ignore this significant facet of the negative impact of the extractive sector. This denial of information is far from commendable and cannot be upheld as corporate social responsibility. FFOS will continue to work in the public interest regardless of the adversity which it faces.