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Over the past decades, there have been increasing concerns over the unsustainable economic growth paths being pursued by many developing and developed countries due to disregard for the environmental effects of development activities and decision making.

Ghana has since 1989 made considerable advances in shifting from its past unsustainable path of development. Through the 1991 environmental policy, we prioritized environmental issues on Ghana’s development agenda. Through that environmental policy, Ghana demonstrated to its citizens, investors and the whole world that its developmental process would be on a sustainable path.

On 25th February, 2010, H.E. President John Evans Atta – Mills in his address on the state of the Nation, in parliament, said: “Madam Speaker, Kwame Nkrumah laid a foundation for oil and gas exploitation in Ghana. Jerry John Rawlings created the institutional framework for its exploitation. The oil and gas was struck in commercial quantities in the period of John Agyekum Kufour. Actual commercial exploitation is beginning in the period of John Evans Atta – Mills. In between, others have played their part”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, commercial exploitation of oil and gas resources is one such development that must be managed and regulated in line with sustainable development goals envisioned in Ghana’s environmental policy and legislative frameworks. Oil and gas development requires serious policy choices and we assure you of government’s readiness and willingness to meet the challenges.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), the Security Services and other allied state institutions have been playing strategic and interconnected roles with the end point being sustainable exploitation of Ghana’s emerging oil and gas industry. This interconnectivity is anchored on Resource Management, Revenue management, Environmental Management and Local Content Development.

Today’s encounter will concentrate on Ghana’s environmental preparedness as it relates to the industry. Hence the emphasis on the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Environmental Management, Health and Safety, and Community Issues (EMHSCI) component of the Oil and Gas Master Plan developed by the EPA, seeks to fully mainstream and integrate environmental management, health and safety, and community issues into the petroleum sector operations.

To achieve the identified objectives and strategies, about 60 actions have been proposed to be implemented within short term (2009-2011), medium term (2011-2015) and long term (2015-2020).

Ladies and Gentlemen, already we are collecting baseline information in the offshore environment through the assistance of the Ministry of Environment of Norway. Two surveys have already been carried out in April 2009 and May 2010. When all these surveys have been completed and adequate information collected, we would be in a much better position to regulate the oil and gas industry.

We have also developed an oil and gas environmental assessment guidelines as a step towards provision of a regulatory framework for environmental management of the petroleum sector.

To respond to oil spill emergencies even though the National Policy is ‘No Spill’, The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) is also being strengthened. It was revised in November, 2009. This plan sets out clear definition of the responsibilities of the major participants in a set of national arrangements by way of an Inter-Agency Agreement (IAA). The lesson in the Gulf of Mexico has once again shown the world that complacency is costly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Jubilee project is no doubt a flagship oil and gas development project not only for Ghana as a country but also for the investors. We are all looking forward to that day when the first oil would start flowing from the Jubilee Field. Indeed Ghana would join the league of Nations that found, developed and produced crude oil in commercial quantities in a record time of less than five years. Already, the timely completion of the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah with a project management of change precision is being hailed in the industry all over the world.

However we wish to assure the Nation that as a regulatory ministry we will not cut corners. We shall do what is right. Above all, we shall do the necessary environmental due diligence enshrined in our environmental statute books. We shall caution when we have to and punish when we must in cases of environmental breaches by stakeholders.

In the specific and historic case of the Jubilee project we went through all the environmental assessment processes before an environmental permit was given to the operator to start installation of project equipment to enable first oil to be produced in the last quarter of 2010.

Currently the EPA is reviewing the last set of requirements submitted to it by the operator of the Jubilee Field.

Ladies and gentlemen, five district level public hearings were undertaken in Jomoro, Ellembelle, Axim, Ahanta and Shama district capitals. Regional and national public hearings were also held in Takoradi and Accra respectively. Another public hearing was held exclusively for the Western Regional House of Chiefs in Sekondi.

All these public hearings provided platforms for the people to voice out their concerns about the project and what they anticipate from the oil and gas development which is sixty nautical miles away from their communities. The issues raised at these public hearings are being taken into the Strategic Environmental Assessment process for appropriate analysis and redress. The issues raised at the public hearings, which concern the project directly have been taken onboard by the operator, Tullow Ghana Ltd. As we speak the Jubilee partners are financing the spatial planning of the six coastal districts in the Western Region.

May I request the active participation and cooperation of all stakeholders in our nation’s quest to leapfrog the dirty part of oil and gas exploitation. In this endeavour, we shall rely not only on the ten thousand workers of the ECOBRIGADE project under the Coastal Zone Development Programme but also the Chiefs, Queen mothers and people living along the five hundred and ten kilometers coastal stretch of Ghana. The media obviously has a major role to play.

Government would ensure that the necessary assistance and logistics are provided for the regulatory agencies, particularly the EPA, to enable them perform their statutory functions and also achieve all the objectives enshrined in the strategies that they have developed to ensure that oil and gas development in Ghana is sustainable.
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Statement: Ghana's Environmental Preparedness for First Oil