New environmental guidelines for oil industry

Nigeria has introduced new environmental guidelines aimed at curbing degradation and pollution in the country’s oil region and bringing operations up to international standards, Rilwanu Lukman, presidential adviser on petroleum, said this week.

Inhabitants of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria have accused transnationals operating in the area of polluting the environment. They also feel that successive governments have done little to control the oil companies.

Lukman said in a statement that the new guidelines, released on Tuesday, reviewed old rules to bring them in line with global trends while setting high performance standards for the country’s oil industry. "We cannot afford to trail behind, especially given the international focus
on Nigeria," he said.

Senior officials said the 300-page guidelines provided rules to reduce pollution, procedures for environmental monitoring and analytical parameters. The government, through its Department of Petroleum Resources, will also conduct regular health, safety and environment audits on the oil companies.

Lukman acknowledged that the environmental practices of oil transnationals in Nigeria had been found to be below internationally acceptable standards. He said the government had information that oil companies had stockpiled about 35,000 metric tonnes of drilling waste in various parts of the Niger Delta, and had planned to dump them in remote locations.

"We must warn that this is highly unacceptable to government," he said. "We, therefore, urge all operators with such stockpiles to process and dispose of them appropriately."

Over the past decade, impoverished communities in the Niger Delta have accused oil companies and their partners in government of damaging their environment and depriving them of access to the wealth produced on their land. In the past month, women protesters have carried out a spate of seizures of oil facilities, mostly belonging to ChevronTexaco, to press demands for jobs and social amenities.