Govt defends oil companies against legal challenge, says all legal requirements met

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The Ministry of Natural Resources has responded to an article published in the UK Guardian on Guyanese campaigners who intend to mount a legal challenge against the oil giants ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation and CNOOC Nexen.

Exxon’s Stena Carron harsh environment drillship

The UK Guardian on March 22, 2018, reported, among other things, that the campaigners are challenging the legality of the incumbent Government in the granting the production licences, citing that “under Guyanese law, a licence to drill can only be granted if an environmental permit has been obtained by the company involved.”

Melinda Janki, one of the lawyers representing the Guyanese campaigners, said “It is very simple. If you want to extract oil in Guyana you need an environmental permit in order to get a petroleum production licence,…Only one of the three companies involved has an environmental permit. We are seeking an order to quash the decision by the minister to issue the licence because, we are saying, he acted illegally.”

The Ministry in its response, among other things, posited that “it is confident, that every action it took with regard to the issuance of the petroleum production license met all legal requirements” and the “Government of Guyana is prepared and willing to present all facts in this regard to any court with jurisdiction.”

The release from the Natural Resources Ministry said it notes that “this sort of action is not unusual in emerging oil economies, particularly during the stage leading up to first oil at which Guyana currently is.”

Moreover, the Ministry said it is “satisfied that its partners engaged in exploration and preparation for production are taking every precaution in ensuring that there is minimal effect to the environment and that they are diligently putting systems in place to guard against any spills or mishaps.”

The ‘campaigners’ who are mounting the challenge, it appears, are concerned with the devastating effects that an oil spill, should it occur, will have on the environment.

The UK Guardian quoted Ramon Gaskin of A Fair Deal for Guyana campaign, who posited that ” In my opinion the government has sold off Guyana’s oil without a care for the environment, without a care for the people, without a care for fishermen and others who stand to lose everything from a spill, without a care for Guyana’s marine environment which could be totally destroyed, without a care for future generations who might inherit nothing but an oil slick, and without any understanding whatsoever of the dangers of climate change. People also have to understand that an oil spill or a well blow-out could harm our Caribbean neighbours and Guyana could be liable for that damage.”

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