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Guyanese citizens push back on ExxonMobil expansion, demand right to healthy environment

May 25, 2021


Guyanese citizens have filed a constitutional case that pushes back on industry giant ExxonMobil’s plans to boost fossil fuel production off the country’s coast — charging that the expansion violates citizens’ constitutional rights to a healthy environment and the rights of future generations. 

The case, filed by University of Guyana scientist Troy Thomas and Indigenous youth Quadad de Freitas, is the first in the Caribbean to challenge fossil fuel extraction on constitutional grounds. The case argues that Guyana’s approval of Exxon’s oil and gas buildout along the coast infringes on the country’s commitment to its people. 

“This case really highlights the incompatibility of approving new oil and gas development, which inevitably leads to increased emissions, with protection of a healthy environment and the rights of future generations,” said Nikki Reisch, the director of the climate and energy program at the Center for International Environmental Law. This isn’t the first time that Guyana’s expansion of oil and gas production has raised eyebrows — last year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee asked authorities to address concerns that the expansion would negatively impact human rights.

Guyana is a rainforest-dense country nestled between Venezuela and Brazil, and home to Exxon’s largest oil development outside of the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas. The company turned its eyes to Guyana as a new oil frontier in 2015, signing a contract with the country a year later. It began oil production in 2019. Exxon estimates that its wells off the coast have the potential to produce a total 9 billion barrels of oil and anticipates that by 2025, it will be extracting 750,000 barrels of oil per day from the region. 

[Ysabelle Kempe]

More: Can the ‘right to a healthy environment’ stop Exxon’s expansion in Guyana?

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