sharing in governance of extractive industries

NEMA, oil companies score poorly in environmental audit

The story was first published on www.oilinuganda.org

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has made efforts to manage oil drilling wastes in the Albertine Graben, but capacity gaps in supervision and monitoring of oil activities still exist, a recent environmental audit report released by the Auditor General has revealed.

NEMA has also failed to complete the review of environmental legislation to incorporate oil and gas issues, the report observes.

Consequently, it adds, the environmental agency has resorted to guiding the oil companies to store the drilling wastes in a consolidated area, contrary to the recommended best practice of treating it.

By early this year, the report reveals, the amount of total oil waste  generated in the different sites of the Albertine stood at 39, 625 tonnes; with Tullow Uganda generating 29,565 tonnes and Total E&P with 10,060 tonnes.  China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) had not yet submitted its figures.

Costly waste management

The report notes that the current waste management practice, of storing drilling waste in designated ‘waste consolidated areas’ before it is treated is not cost effective.

From 2010 to2013, the total expenditure on drilling waste management activities by the three oil companies was over 26 billion shillings ($10 million).

This money is part of the recoverable costs allowed in the Production Sharing Agreements.

Oil companies, service providers non-compliant

The report also faults the oil companies for failing to conduct quarterly self-monitoring assessments to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements under the NEMA Act.

For instance, Tullow Oil was expected to have submitted twelve self-monitoring reports while Total and CNOOC should have submitted six reports each in the last three years, but this did not happen.

“Out of the expected self-monitoring reports, Tullow submitted 7 reports, Total 3 and CNOOC none,” says the report.

“But even for the submitted ones, NEMA had not issued standardized formats, against which the exploration companies would report, creating discord.”

The report also raises concern about the inability of District Environmental Officers to inspect waste consolidated areas within their jurisdiction regularly because they lack the funds and equipment.

Wastes highly toxic

Contrary to the general position by NEMA that drilling waste is not hazardous, the Auditor General’s audit found the waste to contain abnormally high concentrations of Barium, Chromium, Lead and other heavy metals.

NEMA’s Executive Director, Dr.Tom Okurut, admitted seeing the report and told Oil in Uganda his agency was acting on the recommendations therein.

“We have received a copy of the recent Auditor General’s report and the key issues it pointed out were lack of documentation and delay in finalizing the  legislative review to incorporate oil and gas issues,” he said.

“When the donors froze the funding they had given Uganda, many government activities were affected and not only NEMA’s.  There is nothing we could do,” he said.

He added that NEMA would complete the review of the environmental legislation by the end of this year.

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