Environmental Impact Assessment (ElA) is designed to anticipate and mitigate project impacts starting from the front-end engineering design stage to decommissioning. To further our understanding of the gaps between EIA predictions and the actual impacts of oil and gas projects, it may be plausible to independently review the quality of projects' EISs. There is currently no published academic literature on the role of EIS quality as a precursor to socio-environmental consequences of oil and gas exploration, production and transportation. The only known study of EIS quality in the oil industry was commissioned by UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

This paper examines the quality of nineteen sampled EISs using the Lee and Colley model. The model was adapted based on local and international best practices, peculiarity of oil and gas projects and learning from past research. The European Commission checklist on EIA-EIS quality (2001) and World Bank EA Sourcebook (Energy & Industry) (1999) were also consulted. Lee and Colley model was modified by adding a new review area on decommissioning/abandonment.

Preliminary findings reveal a marginal but not significant improvement in the quality of sampled EISs. The analysis suggests 53% of the sampled EISs were of satisfactory quality. The main weakness common to about 80% of sampled EIS include decommissioning, impact evaluation and impact prediction. There is the problem of environmental stasis which has resulted in impacts not being predicted as deviation from baseline condition. Key areas of strength include descriptive and presentational tasks.

Independent review of oil and gas project EISs is imperative given the recent Gulf of Mexico Macondo oilfield deepwater disaster. Preliminary investigations into this disaster suggest the drilling operation was exempted from detailed EIS. Independent quality review of EISs could help restore public confidence in the oil industry.

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