Oil Industry Loopholes Threaten Kurdistan’s Environment

And part of the blueprint for this kind of behaviour is what’s going on in Iraqi Kurdistan, the newspaper concludes. “A decade ago, big oil companies weren't there, largely because of security concerns. Genel made a deal with Kurdistan's leaders anyway, becoming one of the first Western prospectors to drill there. Rivals eventually followed.”

Which is why it is still hard to enforce any kind of environmental or social legislation for oil companies operating in Iraqi Kurdistan.

NIQASH tried to obtain comments on this issue from several of the offices of international oil companies operating in Iraqi Kurdistan. One manager, who spoke on the condition that it was off the record and that the name of his company not be mentioned, said that they did abide by the regulations and that the company had been providing health services and building schools and clinics in the area in which they worked as well as following environmental guidelines.

“But we don’t always tell the locals what we are doing,” he said. “It’s more important for us to make sure the local Ministry is aware of what we’re doing.”

Having said that, he agreed that not all of the oil companies working in the region were as community minded. The Ministry of Natural Resources, he said, turned a blind eye to bad behaviour.

“Because of the political situation at the moment, a big part of the oil company work together with the Ministry is done under highly confidential terms,” he explained. “That’s why the Ministry just overlooks those who don’t necessarily abide by the oil and gas laws.” After all, in the eyes of the federal government in Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurdish authorities are not exactly abiding by the country’s laws either.

In the meantime, the region’s Environmental Protection and Improvement Board appears to be helpless in the face of any oil company infringements.

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