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Dear Editor: OSHA, EMA are sitting on their hands as Petrotrin poisons Gulf of Paria!

“Petrotrin’s top management is guilty of the criminal action known as ‘reckless indifference’. […] BP was fined billions by the US authorities for the Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. […] Petrotrin continues to do what BP did in the Gulf of Mexico with no significant cost to the company or its management.”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Raphael Fyzabad from the National Workers Union:

Photo: A dead bird on the shore at Otaheite after a Petrotrin oil spill. (Copyright Shaun Rambaran)
Photo: A dead bird on the shore at Otaheite after a Petrotrin oil spill.
(Copyright Shaun Rambaran)

Serious questions arise with Petrotrin’s latest oil spill. First let us clear up some misconceptions propagated by “Fishermen and Fiends of the Sea.” Gary Aboud clearly does not understand the hierarchy of the workplace.

Most likely the workers are the ones who first identified the leak. But the worker can only report the situation. The decision to repair, costing, scheduling, emptying the tank, purging et al resides at management level.

There are numerous reports made by the workers and their union about the poor state of plant and equipment at Petrotrin—in E&P and refining. Most of these are dismissed by the employers and the media.

Look at the response to the issues off-shore with Lennox Petroleum, Labidco etc. The Chambers of Commerce, Employers Consultative Association and, indeed, media houses dismiss these as theatrics by workers and the union.

The parlous state of Petrotrin—given its massive contribution to government coffers, selected senior management and contractors—is a grave indictment. Additionally, when the billions of dollars squandered in the disastrous escapades of World GTL, Gas Optimisation Project, the Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel plant, etc, are considered, then it is crystal clear that the company’s failure to achieve its full potential is no accident.

Petrotrin’s top management is guilty of the criminal action known as “reckless indifference.” Any evidence-based risk assessment of its aged and collapsing infrastructure indicates that leaks, spillages and other incidents on the installed plant are guaranteed because of its present condition.

It’s Murphy’s Law operating with utmost vengeance!

Photo: Activists hold signs during a protest in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building on the first day of the trial over the Deep Water Horizon oil rig spill on 25 February 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Eleven men were killed during the accident and over 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.  (Copyright AFP 2017/Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Photo: Activists hold signs during a protest in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building on the first day of the trial over the Deep Water Horizon oil rig spill on 25 February 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
Eleven men were killed during the accident and over 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. 
(Copyright AFP 2017/Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

BP was fined billions by the US authorities for the Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This disaster occurred even as BP was using equipment and plant that was the apex of the current industry technology.

Petrotrin continues to do what BP did in the Gulf of Mexico with no significant cost to the company or its management.

The equipment, plant and even procedures they use sometimes date back to the Texaco era, so we are sure that shit is bound to happen. This is why they continue to poison the ecosystems in our forests and the Gulf of Paria and get away with it.

The difference here is that while in the US the regulators and institutions go to work when this type of thing happens and hold companies and persons accountable, the institutions in T&T which are tasked to do the same are either too corrupted, compromised or weak to get the job done—because of either political control by the Government or just plain incompetence, which is also due to political control of those appointed to lead them.

Very often the explanation in this country of why Murphy’s law continues to wreak havoc on our society is simply because of plain ignorance, stupidity and incompetence on the part of the “professional” leaders and others in charge of our operations. Many times they suffer from two-story ignorance—they don’t know and they don’t know that they don’t know!

Photo: Petrotrin chairman Fitzroy Harewood. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Petrotrin chairman Fitzroy Harewood.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

If you spent time moving around Goudron, Beachfield, Trinity fields and other forest areas like in Moruga, you would know oil spills and leaking pipelines were commonly ignored for decades. Contaminated surface waters in the forests where the lines pass is normal. When you pass the seawall in Guayaguayare or by Pilot, Lizard and other rivers you see and smell the crude oil polluting them.

There are international Codes, Standards and Procedures that govern what we do in the industry here, but no one to strictly enforce them. For example in the US gas pipeline workers cannot even turn a valve in a transmission/distribution network unless they have been certified an /or licensed by the federal regulator for their energy industry. Violations are deemed criminal actions and carry significant penalties including jail time.

Who trains, certifies and licenses our operators here? Which agency enforces codes, standards or procedures to ensure we are not poisoned, blown to pieces or burned by the likes of Petrotrin and other operators in our industry as has happened too many times before?

The Federal regulators in the USA are powerful agencies and enforce the statutory and regulatory envelope that exists to safeguard their industry. They punish the reckless endangerment and lawlessness that pervades the TT arena because, if they fail to do what they are mandated to in the US, it will cost lives and billions in property.

Ultimately, since no one is ever held accountable for the shit that happens here, we will continue to operate in a downward spiral that our children and future generations will pay for.

Photo: A clean up crew at work after the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill.
Photo: A clean up crew at work after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Environmental Management Authority, Occupational Safety and Health Authority and the Ministry of Energy must do what their mandates and our tax money pays them to do. They must vigorously enforce the statutory and legal requirements we have in place and seek to strengthen them as necessary.

If they don’t, Murphy’s Law will continue to work every day to cost us lives and billions in damages. And the people of the fence line communities, in particular—and the country in general—will continue to suffer the fallout.

 

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10 comments

  1. Report it to a larger international environmental watch group. They have lawyers. And the gulf of Paria relates to other countries

  2. Not a word from deadhorse EMA Gamers

  3. There is not one National Interest Lawyer in the country, is there?!

  4. Raphael Fyzabad – Dave Smith has a nom de plume or what?

  5. Reckless indifference ….it we culture.

  6. Hence the reason we are a Banana Republic.

  7. That image… all the images. Gutting. And the complacency, the indifference from those with the most power to prevent and address…! Thank Heaven for the speed and compassion of NGOs and ordinary citizen volunteers to respond to these disasters, and to make the impact a fraction less horrific.

  8. who guarding the guards, No accountability? whey Roget

  9. Ay boy … Petrotrin is ah state enterprise. How d state go fine and discipline itself?