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Decision pending in Oceana’s challenge to 6 offshore PSAs

Press Release Date: April 9, 2013

Location: Belize City, Belize


Decision pending in Oceana’s challenge to 6 offshore PSAs

Today in the court of Justice Oswell Legall Oceana in Belize and co-Claimants Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) and The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage presented oral arguments challenging the validity of six offshore Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs). The PSAs were signed by the Minister of Natural Resources granting oil concession contracts to Island Oil Belize Ltd, Tropical Energy Ltd, Petro Belize Co Ltd, Princess Petroleum Ltd, Providence Energy Belize Ltd and Sol Oil Belize Ltd between 2005 and 2007.

In arguing the claimants’ case, Mr. Godfrey Smith, SC stated the PSAs were granted in breach of the provisions of not only the Petroleum Act, but also in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act, the Fisheries Act and the National Parks Act. He also argued that in the case of the PSAs that have since been renewed, that renewal happened despite the fact that the concessioners did not adhere to the very conditions laid out in their original concessions, which required payment of rental and administrative fees, relinquishment of part of their blocks, and that specific activities be undertaken over the life to the original contracts.

Oral arguments started shortly after 9:00am and continued until just after mid-day, when the proceedings adjourned for lunch. The case resumed at 2:00pm and shortly after 3:00pm both sides wrapped up their presentations. The case now rests with Justice Legall, who has reserved judgment until before he proceeds on leave in April.

In commenting out today’s hearing, Oceana in Belize VP Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd said, “It is a victory to even have the matter heard before the Supreme Court. No matter how the decision goes, the issue of offshore oil exploration should be one that every Belizean takes an interest in because being custodians of the world’s second largest barrier reef is a job we should carry out with honor and dignity and not take lightly.”

Private attorneys Mr. Denys Barrow, S. C. and Naima Barrow represented the defendants, instead of the lawyers from the Office of the Solicitor General who appeared for the Government at the start of the case.