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Oct 18, 2016

Department of Environment Clarifies Seismic Testing in Belizean Waters

For the past two weeks, we have been telling you about the proposed multi- beam and seismic testing that will be taking place in Belize’s offshore. Last week, G.O.B. issued a release that Cabinet has approved the survey that is merely part of a larger regional initiative. Local conservationists were quick to point out major concerns with the seismic testing. OCEANA Belize issued multiple releases calling on the Department of Environment to show their documentation as to why no E.I.A. was conducted prior to the start of the seismic testing. OCEANA said they believed there was a lack of information and use of Science with the D.O.E.’s recommendation to Cabinet. Well, today Government issued a release in response to OCEANA’s statements, calling them “misleading” and said that they disagree with OCEANA who said that the proposed testing is likely to have widespread environmental impacts. Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria explained to the media how and why they informed Government to proceed with the seismic testing.

 

Martin Alegria

Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer

“Well, the Department of the Environment got a proposal as per procedure where you have a concept of an undertaking, be it petroleum, residential, tourism, that is how it starts. So, we looked at it from various angles to see or to determine based on law, in the scheduling of the EIA regs. If it requires an EIA if it falls under schedule one or if it falls under schedule two it may or may not require an EIA, based on the details or none at all. Also, based on precedence we have had in the sector or industry with the type of project. We did get something from Petroleum and Geology as the interested parties that is working with these. It started with a multi-beam assessment or survey. So, we reviewed it and we looked at the methodologies they were proposing to do it, the areas they are talking about, we looked at the policies that we have in terms of procedures and legislations. We understood that one, it was a non-intrusive methodology, two it was far outside any protected area, marine reserve and so on and three we saw that it was something that instituting a few mitigation measures that are internationally acceptable can be done. So, we did approve the multi beam survey or assessment.”

 

Reporter

“What recommendation was given to Cabinet? Because Cabinet makes decisions based upon technical – give us the technical rationale behind the wavering of the EIA?”

 

Martin Alegria

“It was wavering as you are putting it. Again, you had the second proposal, which is then based on the multi-beam survey and results, you would have a second phase which is of interest the seismic surveys. Apparently these are doing the two in one initiative, due to expense, equipment, whatever it is. So, when we started to review the second proposal which is on the seismic survey that you are talking about. Again, we reviewed based on history, based on procedure and law.  There has been this misinformation out there that the law says any seismic has to do an Environmental Impact Assessment- that is not so.  The EIA regulations, like I mentioned, has schedules one and two. Schedule one is a list of projects that have to do EIA, regardless. Schedule two has may or may not. Seismics fall under schedule two – may or may not. Why? Because Seismic depends on the methodology is non-intrusive. In land it is even less intrusive than on the marine. So, when we looked at schedule two it says may or may not. We looked at the methodology proposed in this seismic survey.”

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