At last month's House Meeting, the Barrow Administration introduced legislation to enact an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil drilling. It was immediately embraced by the conservation community. But, while it eliminates the risk of oil spills in the country's marine territory that could have been caused by oil-drilling companies, there are other types of oil spill disasters.
That's the discussion that the Department of the Environment hosted today as part of a 3-day meeting with experts to update National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. The DOE wants to make sure that if an oil tanker truck should overturn and spill oil into a river, the relevant Government Departments, the conservation community, the private sector, and the civil service will know just how to respond to minimize the damage to environment, and shorten the clean up time afterwards.
The first day of the meeting was attended by representatives from government and non-governmental agencies, as well as members from the conservation community. 7News stopped by and we asked the CEO from the Ministry of the Environment about the reasons for updating the oil spill contingency plan.
Here's what he and the consultant from the Polaris Applied Sciences Incorporated had to say:
Dr. Percival Cho - CEO, Ministry of Environment
"The oil spill contingency plan, as we call it, is a plan that is designed to afford stakeholders in this country, pretty much anybody who's interested in disasters related to petroleum products, to have a coordinated response, to dealing with an emergency, such as a spill of an oil tanker, for example, a truck on the highway spilling fuel, or even used oil being transported, and there is a spill. So, the idea being that this plan will dictate, provide recommendations for the type of equipment that should be used in certain events, certain types of events, and certain spills."
Dr. Elliott Taylor - Consultant, Polaris Applied Sciences Inc
"Spills fortunately, have not been something that you've had to live with a lot here. There have been some cases where you've had some spills, and there's been responses. But, we want to make sure that we have in place, as part of the Government of Belize, is a very well documented procedure to address any eventual spills, whether those happen on land, into a river, or at sea. And, they may occur from your own operations, transfers, storage units, even simple tank roll-overs for instance. Anything like that - to offshore. If you have ships that are passing by, and you have ship collision. There are different sources that can lead to an event, and so the point of having this national plan in place is to be able to address everything from that small local spill, all the way up to something that may be a larger spill, that needs to be handled. A proper spill plan is something that will aid everybody in understanding their roles and responsibilities, in the eventuality of a response, how they play into that, what their responsibilities are. And, the more organized and the more streamline that is, the better your response will be, the better it will be, and the fewer damages and impacts will result from a potential situation."
The meeting continues tomorrow, and ends on Thursday.