Saturday, June 26, 2010

Geisum Oil Contradictions Continue in Jebel al-Zayt

HEPCA, a watchdog organization protecting the ecology of the Red Sea, says at last report that the Jebel al-Zayt oil leak at an Egyptian state-owned Petrogulf Misr/Geisum Oil rig has finally been contained.

However, HEPCA seems oddly tentative to name Geisum as the culprit even though this information has been verified elsewhere in the world media. Perhaps they fear reprisal from the Egyptian government, or legal retribution; an early report had local activists reluctant to divulge Petrogulf Misr/Geisum's name "for legal reasons." And though they speak of the leak having been stopped, they use the present tense for the situation later in the same press release:

We are still fervently awaiting the Nature Conservation Sector’s assessment of the damages at as well as a statement declaring the identity of the rig that is visibly spewing out the oil!

The damage to Egypt's natural resources is a crime that must not go unpunished; and the complicity of any party with such a crime must be revealed and condemned.

The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum now claims that the oil that polluted beaches was actually not from any of its rigs. They speculate that the oil perhaps leaked by a passing tanker, or may have seeped from the ground spontaneously; in other words, they're grasping at straws to point the finger anywhere that doesn't lead back to themselves. According to the state-run Middle East News Agency, the state-run Ministry issued a report declaring that the state-run oil rig was "sound". (Well, I guess that settles that, doesn't it?)

Even more contradictory is the ministry's statement that because of this incident, they're looking at the possibility of limiting oil drilling activity in the area. But why on Earth would they say this now if their position is that oil drilling had nothing to do with it?

Finally, we have to ask, is the leak really fixed? We've already heard Egyptian govt. assurances that it has been, followed by eyewitness reports that it most certainly had not. HEPCA seems to be agreeing with the state position now, but we also have to wonder if they're not just fearing for their own safety - severe lashings, beatings and inordinately lengthy imprisonment are still standard punishment procedure in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both of which have legal jurisdiction over the Red Sea.