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Sea Lion Field Development - Phase 1 Environmental Impact Statement
Please find below Falklands Conservation’s (FC’s) comments on the above Environmental Impact Statement (hereafter EIS), submitted by Premier Oil plc (PMO) for the Sea Lion Field Development.
FC recognises the potential economic and social benefits of hydrocarbons to the Falkland Islands and is not in principle opposed to oil and gas exploration and development in them. Such development and extraction can however carry risk to the natural environment and globally important wildlife of the Islands, with serious potential to have a significant impact on it from extraction activities, and in the worst case from pollution.
As such, any hydrocarbon industry development in the Islands should be undertaken with comprehensive risk assessment, following international best practice with benefits for the natural environment. This would include, amongst other things, taking a precautionary approach, clearly identifying the ecological features at risk, providing up-to-date relevant data to allow evaluation of such features and facilitate risk assessment, and utilising the mitigation hierarchy (meaning impacts are, in order - avoided, minimised, restored or offset) to deliver net gain (a positive impact for biodiversity). It should provide an easily digestible assessment with clear commitments to future activities, review and improvement.
In this regard FC welcome that the approach to risk assessment in the EIS is precautionary and there are statements within it indicating commitment to further improving operations as information and technology progress. Despite this, FC have significant concerns about the quality of the Statement which are compounded by its leading tone and its somewhat inconsistent approach and adherence to recognised guidelines. Whilst there has been improvement on the exploration EIS, there are a number of key omissions/ inaccuracies, which greatly undermine confidence that the risk assessment process is fully understood and that this is a well written and robust EIS on which decision makers can consent to a 20+ year oil campaign. It is also regrettable that a number of key documents were not appended to the consultation EIS e.g. oil spill strategies, Wildlife Response Plan, the Genesis avian baseline report, inshore transfer alternatives evidence etc.
On this basis FC is concerned that whilst there has been some improvement there has been no demonstrable ‘step change’ in approach to environmental consideration since the exploration EIS.
If, despite FC’s view, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) do consent the proposals, FC has included issue by issue resolutions (expanded upon in Appendix 1):
Some of the issues within the EIS draw out some key weaknesses of the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) environmental policy and legislation framework and are directly identified by the applicant. FC recognise the challenge of becoming ‘oil ready’ and the contribution that it could and should make towards FIG achieving it as this work is progressed.
Overall, oil extraction brings with it a number of impacts and potential risks to important sites and species within the Islands, some of which are of international significance. FC feel it is critical that MLAs are confident that the EIS represents and commits best efforts to protect the environment of the Islands in providing any consent on behalf of the FI community.
At this point, FC do not feel MLAs should have sufficient confidence to consent to development on the premise of the current EIS. Conditioning further information that could in fact alter the conclusions of the EIS is well recognised as poor practice; however, should FIG resort to conditioning to try to strengthen/improve the issues within the EIS it is critical that this is done well. Failure to ensure adequate improvements ahead of commencement of the campaign is only likely to exacerbate existing issues further down the line and undermine confidence in the process in the Islands.
FC recognises the effort that has gone into the writing of this EIS by the applicant and the work to facilitate it to the consultation phase by FIG, and are keen to continue a constructive dialogue with both in order to address the environmental risks and impacts, which is a goal we all share.
CEO, Falklands Conservation
Patron: HRH The Duke of York KG KCVO ADC
Falklands Conservation is a company limited by guarantee in
England and Wales No. 3661322 and Registered Charity No. 1073859
Registered Office: Bridge House, 4 Borough High Street, London SE1 9QR
Telephone: +44 (0) 1767 693710, email@example.com
Registered as an Overseas Company in the Falkland Islands
Appendix 1. Specific Comments
Ecological features that may be impacted
A critical component of the risk assessment is to define the Zone of Influence. The ‘Zone of Influence’ for a project is the area over which ecological features may be subject to significant effects as a result of the proposed project and associated activities.
The Zone of Influence for potential impacts should be clearly and repeatedly identified. This should be done before summarising relevant receptors (ecological features that may be impacted) and baseline data as a necessary prerequisite to provide robust and clear assessment.
Satisfactory alternatives to inshore transfer and selection of Berkeley Sound
The requirement to demonstrate that there are no satisfactory alternatives to those proposed, that would reduce impacts, is set out in the Offshore Minerals Ordinance 2011 (OMO) Section 7:
‘Every Environmental Impact Assessment must contain -
Development Plan Policy SP5 also states the requirement to ‘demonstrate that there are no alternative solutions, that there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest (including those of a social or economic nature) and that any impacts are avoided, mitigated and compensated for as far as is practicable.’
The EIS should include an overview of the impacts and risks from each proposal (offshore transfer vs inshore transfer) to be able to balance environmental considerations with operating safety and economic viability.
The EIS should include further information to support statements of operating safety and economic viability as reasons not to pursue offshore transfer.
The applicant needs to confirm whether FIG and HSE would, or would not, support the Safety Case in order to substantiate what satisfactory alternatives exist. This confirmation from the developer needs to be an agreed within a specific timeline with an accompanying review period. As minimum, FC believes this should be a condition of any consent.
The OMO Schedule 4, Sec 3. States ‘Every environmental impact statement must include the data required to identify and assess that main effects that the project to which it relates is likely to have on the environment.’
Offshore environment (North Falklands Basin and Sea Lion Field):
Inshore environment (Berkeley Sound):
Points 2, 3, and 5 may provide some risk refinement but are unlikely to be clearly linked to oil industry activities and deliver management options (see EMMP below).
The EIS should contain relevant data detailed above. It would be bad practice to make collection of these basic data a condition of a licence as once a licence is granted it can be potentially costly and difficult to alter the consented operations. It should certainly not be delivered as part of an EMMP as this is information that should be collected immediately to inform the EIS and before deployment of any infrastructure.
Designated sites for nature conservation are a critical component of any Environmental Risk Assessment, as highlighted by FIG policy and legislation:
Issue/s - there is lack of:
The FIG National Nature Reserve network is flawed in not having any key features identified and not having management objectives in place, therefore it is difficult to make good assessments of value and risk. However, international non-statutory designations (IPA, IBA and KBA), provide criteria by which ‘internationally important’ sites, and key features are identified.
Site assessments of all relevant designations within identified Zones of Influence should be included within the EIS.
Legislation and policy
Legislation and policy are the framework against which Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are judged. They provide instruction or guidance to developers about what is acceptable with regards to development proposals or ongoing activities. A good EIA will consider its compliance with it and identify where its actions can contribute to policy objectives
The FI wildlife legislation is dated and inappropriate for the globally significant wildlife supported by the Islands and includes little guidance for dealing with breaches. As the EIS correctly points out (pg. 608) there are no equivalent ‘Disturbance licences’, so it is difficult for developers to know what the next steps are to be compliant with legislation and policy; however, as a minimum the Development Plan lays out the reason to consider legally protected species within the EIS:
Policy SP5 ‘D. To protect the natural environment proposals must: 1. not have any significant adverse impact upon species protected by law (including their habitat)’
The EIS should accurately assess compliance and identify actions that contribute to policy objectives to provide confidence that the EIS is written with an understanding of relevant Falkland Islands policy and legislation.
The purpose of the EIS is to provide clear information on assessment of potential impacts/risks, and the actions taken to avoid, minimise or offset them. This is the concept of the ‘mitigation hierarchy’: first avoidance of impact, second minimisation and only finally offsetting of that impact. This is so that decision makers can clearly assess the outcome against national policy and legislation (as above), and decide whether the resulting risks are acceptable. The concept of ‘no net loss’ is a standard required outcome for the mitigation hierarchy and desirable in the Falklands.
The proposed development should clearly deliver ‘no net loss’ as minimum.
The risk assessment is ‘leading’, it should not conclude decisions/actions on behalf of decision makers.
Offsetting: biological and carbon
Offsetting is the final stage in the mitigation hierarchy and is required under the Offshore Minerals Ordinance. It demonstrates a developer’s intent to provide at least environmental ‘no net loss’ from their activities rather than negative impacts. Guidance on offsetting is provided in FIG EXCO Paper 124/16 Appendix 1 with specific ‘offsetting project guidelines’ in Appendix 2.
Unless determined as non-significant i.e. not an impact, and contrary to statements in the table on pg. 65, all impacts are there to be offset. It would be useful to acknowledge those ’risks’ which are deemed probable in achieving the goal of ‘no net loss’, as stated in the ExCo paper.
The offsetting proposals need to provide better justification for not exploring indirect offsetting project proposals.
The offsetting proposals for contributing to a fund need to state a value that can be judged to be commensurate with delivering offsetting to provide ‘no net loss’, and for carbon for comparability with carbon credit values.
Environmental monitoring and management plan (EMMP)
There is no specific guidance by FIG on the appropriate structure and purpose of EMMPs, which will hinder applications. There is however general understanding of what EMMPs are . FIG have developed the Environmental Case legislation which will improve the delivery and accountability of EMMPs.
Critically EMMPs are to monitor uncertainty around impacts/risks and effectiveness of proposed mitigation, they are not to deliver baseline data of relevance, as this should have been provided during the EIS.
Certainly EMMP effort should be prioritised where there is a high degree of uncertainty about the risk and/or mitigation, if proposed, and where risk categories could change for the worse i.e. it is more important to monitor where the risk could change from a moderate category to high category, not where more certainty (risk refinement) may move from a Low to Very Low risk category, for example.
The approach to monitoring should produce results that are clearly attributable to the proposed impacts of the development. Without this they will fail to provide clear accountability for action and therefore achievable management for change, unless the oil industry is willing to manage impacts on behalf of all sectors.
Examples of EMMP actions
EMMP proposals are not acceptable and should be revised to meet the generally accepted requirements of EMMPs.
Contributions to broadly relevant, but non-EIA essential wider environmental monitoring, where management actions cannot be undertaken, should be delivered outside of the EIA process.
Once appropriate, EMMP commitments should be part of strict licence conditions.
Oiled Wildlife Response
The Hydrocarbons Environmental Impact Assessment Guidance Note states that ‘A key risk is oil spill.’, and that ‘the approval of the EIS without understanding the broad approach to how a spill event would be responded to  has previously led to considerable delays in the approval of EIS’. This reinforces the importance of agreeing and presenting response plans and providing relevant data within the EIS.
The EIS states that remoteness, poor transport and abundant wildlife in the Falklands pose unique and significant challenges in responding to major oil pollution incident, and that in the worst-case scenario weather conditions will be such that effective recovery of oil spills would not be possible. Under this scenario, impacts would be significantly detrimental to the Falklands’ environment and wildlife, as well as the economies driven by it (e.g. international wildlife tourism).
More data should be provided on oil behaviour with wildlife and trials carried out to test feasibility of the logistics of response plans.
Oil Spill Strategies/Plans should be presented with the EIS. If they are not, they need to be tightly conditioned and received well in advance of operations commencing
There needs to be guarantee that an oil spill response and remediation programme can be financed by the developer. This will need to provide details of specific cover –e.g. clean up vs remediation which is potentially more expensive– and financial details rather than a simple assurance.
The Offshore Minerals Ordinance states in ‘Schedule 4. Section 6. Remediation’ the requirement for inclusion of information within the EIS that includes the termination of the project.
To be compliant with the OMO the EIS should include the decommissioning phase of the proposed development.
There needs to be a clear commitment to be able to decommission even if the developer is in financial difficulty.
The EIS highlights the significant issues of dealing with waste within the Islands.
Other, but not exhaustive, issues
Pg. 423: Why would only globally threatened species be included? There is a Falkland Islands Red List for nationally threatened plant species – this shows poor understanding of conservation status indicators.
Pg. 571: Why are only seabirds considered and then narrowed to penguins when all nesting birds are protected under the CoWNO? Further, why are seals included when they are not protected and are Least Concern? This shows poor understanding of legislative and conservation relevance.
Pg. 578: King Penguins are increasing in numbers and are ‘Least Concern’ globally, Volunteer point holds less than a percentage of the world population. Southern Rockhopper are decreasing in numbers globally and are’ Vulnerable’. Why would the king penguin colony be valued higher than the southern Rockhopper colonies - this shows poor understanding of conservation value.
Pg. 631: States there are no population estimates for cetaceans, but the current SAERI Dolphins of the Kelp project has provided population estimates are for Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins and the FC sei whale project provided a minimum individual count for Berkeley Sound which is reported in the EIS but not used further. Shows lack of up-to-date information.
It is not reasonable to assume with species that are ‘threatened’ due to declining populations, such as Southern Rockhopper, that temporal or low level impacts can be treated as ‘within the natural variation of the population’ (pg. 657 and pg. 737) as the population is considered outside of this natural variation. This is acknowledged on pg792 so should be consistently applied throughout.
Pg. 709: The IUCN Red list category for Black-browed Albatross is actually Least Concern. Shows lack of up-to-date information.
Pg. 803: Whale numbers are considered increasing in the Islands and the presence of Southern Right Whale in numbers in 2017 which are more prone to ship strike will increase the risk of ship strike from that considered in the 2008 cetaceans Species Action Plan. The EIS has a lack of up-to-date information on cetacean ship-strike as last year there was one observed near miss with the Concordia Bay and one reported strike with a launch.
Pg. 1088: Why is the North Falkland Basin inferred as a Zone of Influence for exposure of cetaceans to an oil spill when there is a spill model? Demonstrates poor understanding of EIA process?
 CIEEM (2016) Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the UK and Ireland: Terrestrial, Freshwater and Coastal, 2nd edition. Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Winchester. (Section 2.19)
 Falkland Islands Biodiversity Framework 2016 – 2030. FIG Environmental Planning Department
 Blockley, D. and Tierney, M (2017) Addressing priority gaps in understanding ecosystem functioning for the developing Falkland Islands offshore hydrocarbon industry – the ‘Gap Project’. Phase I Final report, September 2016. Report prepared for the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum (FIOHEF). South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), Stanley, Falkland Islands
 Hydrocarbons Environmental Impact Assessment Guidance Note (2016). FIG Environmental Planning Department (section 4.7 and 4.8)
 Common use of Mitigation Hierarchy development concept e.g. as defined under World Bank Environmental and Social Framework p16 http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/383011492423734099/pdf/114278-WP-REVISED-PUBLIC-Environmental-and-Social-Framework-Dec18-2017.pdf
 CIEEM (2016) Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the UK and Ireland: Terrestrial, Freshwater and Coastal, 2nd edition. Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Winchester. (Section 6.24)