An integral component of an Environmental Impact Assessment is the Socio-economic Assessment. The purpose of these assessments is to identify and evaluate potential impacts of proposed projects on the socio-economic environment of fenceline communities that would most likely be directly impacted by the project.

With the enactment of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) Rules in Trinidad in 2001, Exploration and Production (E&P) companies must now apply to the Environmental Management Authority for an environmental permit for any activity designated under these rules. As a result, oil and gas operators in Trinidad have collected a significant amount of socioeconomic data as part of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) and Environmental Baseline Surveys for CEC applications.

The state owned oil company, Petrotrin, set the standard for conducting socio-economic assessments for energy development projects in Trinidad and did so on a voluntary basis before the CEC Rules were enacted using guidelines developed by the Regional Association of Oil and Natural Gas Companies in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARPEL).

In conducting socio-economic assessments, surveys were conducted for households, community leaders, business proprietors and focus groups. Generally 25% of the population are interviewed in the process to determine their views and aspirations on potential impacts of oil and gas E&P projects based on their historical experience. If effectively conducted, socio-economic assessments are a valuable tool for determining community needs and ensuring win-win partnerships between oil and gas companies and the communities in which they operate.

This paper describes the process by which Petrotrin has conducted socio-economic assessments for EIA’s and Environmental Baseline Surveys for fenceline communities where E&P development activities are planned. It also seeks to give an historical overview of how E&P operations have impacted fence line communities in southern Trinidad over the 20th century.

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