By J. Brock (FINN)
Stephen Luxton, Director of Mineral Resources, introduced a report on Environmental Gap Analysis Funding, which had been endorsed by the Environmental Committee at their meeting on 23 August.
Speaking about the report, Nick Rendell, the Environmental Officer commented on it summarising where there were data gaps which needed to be addressed prior to further oil development taking place.
Dr Brickle explained that a Gap Analysis Working Group had been set up as a sub-group of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum.
Agreeing the priority areas which needed to be examined, the Group had including littoral/sublittoral environments, offshore benthic ecosystems, oceanography in relation to oil spill modelling, seabirds, pinnipeds and cetaceans.
Locally the work would be carried out in conjunction with overseas scientists. It was proposed that two project officers would be employed, one responsible for sea birds and mammals and the other for review, consolidation and curation of the data collection.
Dr Brickle emphasised that there would be enormous benefit in having all the data held in one place and that the data could be used for any project, not just oil. It would allow for a holistic view of the environment.
Stephen Luxton noted that it was absolutely essential that this work proceeded in order to establish a reference baseline for future Environmental Impact Assessments and consequently the Mineral Resources Committee endorsed the action plan and supported the provision of FIG funding up to 50% of the cost of the proposed two year research programme.
They also agreed that the Director of Mineral Resources should approach the members of the Falkland Islands Production Licensees Association to request that the remaining 50% of the funding required to support the project be provided by FIPLA members. They noted that the proposal was included in the Oil Readiness Checklist. Nonetheless the Director of Mineral Resources explained that the report was largely for information purposes.
Recently Knights Consulting report had highlighted that further work was required to identify if there were any outstanding issues which required addressing or were not adequately defined or regulated by current legislation.
Soon the Mineral Resources Department would be consulting with environmental groups locally to ensure that there were no perceived issues. The Director confirmed that this project was included in the Oil Readiness Checklist.
The Mineral Resources Committee supported a gap analysis review in relation to additional environmental legislation which may be required to ensure adequate regulation of the Falklands offshore oil industry; and noted that there may be a requirement for significant additional funding to recruit external expertise to conduct an external review and to undertake legislative drafting, but that the extent of this will only be determined as the work proceeds.