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What preliminary environmental authorisations are required before commencing oil and gas-related activities?
Both operators and non-operators must have evidence of established and implemented quality, health, safety and environment management systems before signing an exploration and production agreement with the minister of energy and water.
Under the Offshore Petroleum Resources Law, the operator must – on behalf of the rights holders – submit a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the minister based on an approved programme as part of any plan for development, production, transportation, storage or usage, and cessation of work.
The minister of energy and water, based on the opinion of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, then approves the EIA programme and submits a proposal for a development and production plan, including the EIA study, for the Council of Ministers' approval.
The procedures, requirements and conditions for the EIA are stipulated in the Decree of Environmental Impact Assessment Rules (8633).
An EIA study must also form part of the plan for the cessation of petroleum activities and the decommissioning of facilities. This plan is subject to the approval of the minister of energy and water, based on the opinion of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration. The minister can ask for amendments to the plan. The EIA study must cover all areas which may be affected.
When an EIA is required, the rights holders must engage third-party specialist health, safety and environmental professionals to conduct it.
When carrying out petroleum activities, the rights holders shall employ up-to-date techniques, practices and methods of operation to prevent environmental damage, control waste and avoid unnecessary loss of, or damage to, natural resources.
The rights holders must obtain a permit from the minister of energy and water and coordinate with the minister of the environment before initiating any planned flaring or cold ventilation.
What environmental protection requirements apply to the operation of oil and gas facilities?
Facilities and work sites shall be planned, designed, built, equipped and set up so that the various petroleum activities can be performed safely and efficiently in accordance with best petroleum industry practices and best pipeline practices.
Preferential treatment shall be given to the use of materials which are considered harmless – either in isolated use or in combination with other materials or gaseous components.
A transportation or storage facility or system shall be located in a safe, environmentally acceptable and otherwise protected manner in order to prevent damage, and to reduce or prevent interference with other activities.
Facilities shall be equipped with adequate safety systems and designed so as to avoid potential defects or failures from endangering people, the environment or assets and financial interests.
Facilities shall be equipped with a reliable emergency power system which shall be independent from other power sources and capable of providing sufficient power to safety systems and other vital equipment in the event of failure of the main power system.
Before operating the facilities, the operator shall undertake testing, inspections and checks so as to ascertain that the safety requirements established in applicable laws are met.
A safety zone must be established surrounding a facility unless otherwise provided by a justified decision from the Council of Ministers.
In the event of incidents, accidents or emergencies, the rights holders or person responsible for the operation and use of the facility must suspend the petroleum activities to the extent and for as long as is prudent.
What are the consequences of failure to adhere to the relevant environmental regulations and to what extent can operators be held liable for environmental damage?
The rights holders shall take all necessary and adequate steps to:
- avoid irremediable environmental damage to the area covered by the exploration and production agreement and adjoining or neighbouring lands and marine areas caused by the rights holder’s petroleum activities; and
- rehabilitate, at its own cost, all areas that suffer environmental damage as a result of the petroleum activities.
If the rights holder fails to comply with its environmental obligations or contravenes any law on the prevention of environmental damage, and such failure or contravention results in environmental damage, it shall take all necessary and reasonable measures to remedy such failure or contravention and the effects thereof.
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