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Kashagan Public Hearings: the Power of Talking

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Atyrau Oblast Governor’s presence among the members of the presidium became a surprise at the public hearings on environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Kashagan Development Experimental Programme (EP) held in Atyrau on March 20.


The Governor Baktykozha Izmukhambetov, the former oil industry worker, in the middle of the hearings, probably like other people in the conference hall, got tired of ample and evasive answers of Agip KCO managers (this company is responsible for implementation of EP) and started to give brief and clear answers to the technical questions.

And he was cut to the heart by Galina Chernova, the head of “Globus” ecological-legal initiative center who saw in his attitude the apparent lobbying of Agip interests:

Galina Chernova, the head of Globus ecological-legal initiative centre Galina Chernova, the head of Globus ecological-legal initiative centre - You are lobbing their interests amid the beginning of migration of Atyrau citizens to Aktyubinsk and Uralsk. Do you know the peoples’ feelings and they believe that after the start of the project it would be impossible to live here? Will Atyrau abide fate of the rotational town?  

- I interfered here not as the Governor, but as the oil industry worker with a 30-year experience, - answered emotionally Izmukhambetov. - I never lobbied nobody's interests and never changed my principles. During these 7 months I repeatedly visited the project facilities and raised hard issues in a firm manner. The Kazakh managers who are sitting here can confirm it. If I lobbied their interests, then many issues would have been resolved in a different way. Therefore, I will ask you not to offend me.


As for the rest, the hearings went as usual. In the sense that the parties (the representatives of the company and the public) were talking their own talks. And in this case the disparate was also aggravated by poor translation. Meanwhile, as I repeatedly observed during similar public hearings, including TCO projects, that the style of speech of expatriate managers, for some reason, very strongly reminds the manner of our officials who manage to talk a lot, but not business.

Academician Muftakh DiarovAcademician Muftakh DiarovFor example, Umberto Carrara, Agip KCO managing director answered the question of the academician Muftakh  Diarov who asked him among other questions, the question about the number of drilled wells. Mr.  Carrara’s answer was very long, but he didn’t give any figures. In the similar manner were the answers of all other Agip KCO representatives to numerous other questions, particularly, to the question that concerned the public mostly - about oil spills in winter time.

By the way, after the public hearings I approached Mark Shepherd, Agip KCO oil spill response coordinator, to discuss with him his theory that to collect oil spill in winter time will not be difficult (see "Kashagan vulnerable to oil spills"). Mark found an excuse that he doesn't have interpreter available and when an interpreter was available, Mr. Shepherd was gone.

Meanwhile, it became clear from the conversation with Agip KCO manager Walter Rizzi that the company is familiar with my abovementioned report about the international conference in Almaty “The Industrial safety in fuel and energy complex”, published on AkZhaik website on March 19. Literally the same day they contacted Frands Pilegaard Jensen,  the Vice President of the Danish company DESMI, specializing in oil spill response equipment, who told me in Almaty that in winter time it is more difficult to collect oil spills and that Agip KCO hasn’t purchased from them “winter” skimmers. According to Rizzi, the Danish Vice President claims that I interpreted his words incorrectly. But our conversation was recorded to a dictophone, and there is no misinterpretation of his words. During yesterday's hearings on presentation slides for the first time there was brief information that the company has 14 oil collectors for winter season. But project information materials that were distributed among the public prior to the hearings, did not contain this information.

Never mind! In any case you cannot  collect all spills with all these devices. At the Almaty conference the experts openly said that even after oil spill response using all possible methods – including mechanical (skimmers, etc.), application of dispersants and burning – at least 30% of oil spill will still remain in the sea. And in case of the 3rd tier spill no rescuers even from Southampton can rescue us.


As for the growing water consumption for production needs from “Astrakhan-Mangyshlak” water pipeline - according to Agip KCO managers, till the end of the current year it is envisaged to re-use up to 30% of water drawn from the pipeline, and on the 2nd stage, in 2014-2015, to increase reverse water supply up to 70%.

To the question raised by the head of NGO Caspi Tabigaty Makhambet Khakimov, whether guarantees and insurance of population has been provided in case of oil spill, Pierre Delpon, the NCOC consortium external relations director's answer was quite flexible:

- The responsibility will depend on the extent of the caused damage. Also it will be considered on each individual case, including the company that directly bears the responsibility for the damage.

After the public hearings Agip representatives on the meeting sidelines said that some strong statements made by independent ecologists are the result of the absence of knowledge of some of the information that is available in the company. And a fair remark was made at the end of the meeting by Shynar Iztleuova,  the director of the Zhaik-Caspian Orkhuss center, that the company should meet more often with the public and share its reliable information. This would save them the unpromising polemic with the public that is rightfully concerned about the ecological future of the region.

by Laura Suleimenova

Photo of the author

March 22 2013, 15:04

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