The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia has complained of being left out of the renegotiation process of the oil block 13 Agreements.
During the first public hearing of the amended oil block 13 agreements held by the legislative joint committee on ratification, Madam Anya Vohiri, Executive Director of EPA told the committee members that despite the EPA been a part of formulating the oil sector policy it was left out of the renegotiation process of block 13.
Said Vohiri; "The EPA is a National Regulatory and enforcement agency that monitors all activities related to Natural resources concession to ensure that negative environment and social impact are avoided and mitigated or reduced as much as possible. The mandate of EPA is important to the success for the agenda of transformation."
The EPA boss commended NOCAL for involving the EPA in the policy formulation of the Country's Oil sector as a member of the Hydro Carbon technical committee but expressed her disappointment of been left out of the negotiations.
The EPA boss's concerns about being left out of the negotiation was interrupted by the committee chairman Senator Cletus Wotorson (UP-Grand Kru County) who informed the EPA chief that the forum was not meant for that and told her to address her concerns to the executive branch of government.
Speaking earlier the NOCAL President Dr. Randolph McClain said the new renegotiated oil block 13 agreements is better than the previous one with Pepper Coast and said that the ratification of the contract by the Legislature will make Liberia the biggest and best in the world.
The NOCAL boss said Liberia stands to received US$ 50 million dollars immediately after ratification of the contract agreement by the legislature and will also ensure the printing into hand bill of the agreement, something he said is the largest upfront payment in oil negotiation to a non- oil producing country such as Liberia.
Said McClain: "The Negotiating team of the Government has also secured a 5% participation share in oil Block 13 meaning if exploration in Block 13 is successfully, revenues will be available to share with citizens that will be at no cost to NOCAL, the Government and the Citizens."
McClain also disclosed that the team has secured a 10% royalty for oil produce under drilled depth of 0-1500 meters and 15% for oil drilled below 1,500 depth.
The NOCAL president also told the committee that the negotiating team also took into consideration securing funds of US$150,000.00 annually for training of Liberians in the oil sector.
Said McClain: "One of the most important provisions of the block 13 contract agreement is the premium placed on the protection of our environment. Stringiest requirement have been taken to ensure that social impact environment services are provided for each steps of the oil exploration process.
For her part Justice Minister Christina Tah said, the new agreement met the necessary legal benchmarks.
She also disclosed of plans by the Liberian government to review and develop new petroleum laws that will meet current day reality of oil sector because according to her most of the laws on book for the country's oil sector do not confront with current realities.
Also speaking at the hearing, Press Union President Peter Quaqua called for more time and public participation to be given the agreement before ratification by the legislature.
According to Quaqua the time was too short to hold hearings because the agreement is voluminous for one to read two days after receiving it to make a final decision on whether or not to ratify the contract.
Said Quaqua: "The legislature has been accused over time of hastily passing agreements. We think this oil block 13 is critical and we want you to be critical in what you do here today. If we are here today to fast track this agreement then we are setting ourselves up. So we want the committee to open this agreement to the public to have the public's contribution."
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Senator Wotorson said, the committee will meet later Wednesday night to decide the next steps including whether to ratify it or take recommendations from some stakeholders who are stressing the need for more time to review the document.
Asked if claims raised by his colleagues Acarous Gray and Bhofal Chambers of Maryland and Montserrado County, in the lower house, that there were some flaws in the negotiation process, Senator Wotorson chose not to respond to his colleagues comments.