Legal Loopholes in Oil Industry Threaten Iraqi Kurdistan’s Environment
The region of Iraqi Kurdistan is brimming with untapped oil resources. And multi-national oil companies know it. But because of the grey legal area in which oil contracts are being signed, none of the oil companies seem to be under any real obligation to abide by environmental regulations. And some of them are exploiting this loophole.
With its mostly stable environment and government, the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan is experiencing an oil rush. Apparently the region has an estimated 45 billion barrels of oil under it. But while oil companies line up to do business here and cities like Erbil boom, there are also environmental issues to consider.
Legislation in the region, which has its own laws, military and parliament distinct from the rest of Iraq, says that the local Ministry of Natural Resources should be ensuring that oil companies doing business in Iraqi Kurdistan stick to rules about pollution and compensation.
For example, earlier this year the Minister of Natural Resources in Iraqi Kurdistan, Ashti Hawrami, said that Iraqi Kurdistan would most likely be exporting 250,000 barrels of oil a day during 2013. That figure could rise to 1 million barrels per day by 2015.
If one assumes that Hawrami is correct and that, despite plans for pipelines, one knows that most of the Iraqi Kurdish oil is presently being exported by tanker trucks and that each truck can carry 45,000 litres of oil, then that means there must be around 1,055 trucks carrying oil around Iraqi Kurdistan every day. This traffic alone means accidents, spillages, exhaust emissions, road damage, noise pollution and a range of other hazardous impacts. And that is without even considering the environmental impacts from the actual oil exploration, which involves the production of toxic gases and other ill effects.