20 April 2014

Ethiopia: New Petroleum Spills Bill Passes in Parliament

The bill is designed to ensure that Ethiopia complies with accepted international petroleum practices

Parliament passed a bill on petroleum spills and the licensing & conduct of petroleum operations, on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, with a unanimous vote. This was despite 242 of the members being absent.

The quorum for the Ethiopian Parliament is more than half of the members attending, which, in this case, the 24th regular session of its fourth year, was exceeded by "31.5" members.

The bill, which became a law, demands that owners and custodians of petroleum notify the Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Energy (MoWIE) if more than 500lt of petroleum or petroleum products leak into the environment and take measures to clean it up. In cases where the government does the cleaning, they will be charged for the expense.

Under the previous law, custodians or owners were encouraged to report such incidents, but were not required to do so.

This requirement is meant to ensure that Ethiopia complies with accepted international practices related to petroleum products, said Zewdu Kebede, chairperson of the Trade Affairs Standing Committee, which, together with the Natural Resource & Environmental Protection Affairs Standing Committee, has been scrutinising the Bill.

The distributor must also set aside a reserve stock of no less than 500 cubic metres, the Bill requires.

"This is so as to have a reliable supply of petroleum products in the country," Zewdu told the Parliamentarians.

The Ministry will also consider legal, technical and financial capacity and competence when issuing a certificate of competence.

The two Standing Committees studied the bill separately, convening together on March 26, 2014, to get explanations from Zewdu Tefera, Legal Affairs director, and Biruk Berhanu, Petroleum Affairs director, both at the Ministry, finally bringing the document to the House for voting.

Ethiopia imports 75pc of its benzene from Sudan; the rest of its demand, including fuel oil, kerosene, diesel and other petroleum products comes from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, according to data from the Ethiopian.

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