Gov’t says all legal requirements met in granting oil licence to Esso, partners

-as challenge filed over environmental permit

The Government of Guyana yesterday affirmed that every action it took in the issuance of a petroleum production licence to the local ExxonMobil subsidiary and its joint venture partners met all legal requirements.

The affirmation came in wake of a report in the previous day’s edition of the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper, under the headline ‘Guyanese campaigners mount legal challenge against three oil giants.’

The Guardian report highlighted a planned legal challenge by a Guyanese group of citizens—A Fair Deal for Guyana – A Fair Deal for the Planet— to the granting of the licence to Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited and partners Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd. and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Limited on the basis that the latter two companies were not granted environmental permits.

A statement issued yesterday by the Director of Public Information on behalf of the Natural Resources Ministry said government reaffirmed that it zealously guards and defends the right of every citizen to seek recourse in law in pursuit of interests they believe to be worthy. “Equally the Government of Guyana is certain, as it is confident, that every action it took with regard to the issuance of the petroleum production license met all legal requirements,” it said. “The Government of Guyana is prepared and willing to present all facts in this regard to any court with jurisdiction,” it added.

The group’s application had been filed in the name of citizens’ rights activist Ramon Gaskin for a court order to quash the granting of the licence to include Hess and CNOOC Nexen.

Gaskin yesterday explained that an appeal was filed yesterday against Justice Franklyn Holder’s denial of the application for the interim order.

“We hope it can be heard soon because we have filed for an early and urgent hearing of our matter,” Gaskin explained.

He said he believes there is a strong case.

“I think our case is very strong in law. We are dealing here with a case against the Minister of National Resources [Raphael Trotman], who granted Hess and Nexen [a] licence in 2016 without the necessary permits and it is a requirement of our law. In 2016, he gave all of them that licence when the 1999 agreement only speaks of Esso. We have now the 2016 agreement, which speaks to all three of them but they all have to get environmental permits before that that licence can be given and that is the law. It is very simple,” Gaskin added.

Meanwhile, the government’s statement said such action is not unusual in emerging oil economies, particularly during the stage leading up to first oil, where Guyana is presently.

“The Ministry 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,” it says.

“The Ministry further assures all Guyanese, and the world at large, that it will continue to engage its partners – ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC Nexen – in ensuring that the interest of Guyana’s waters and environment remain top priorities as we pursue exploitation of Guyana’s natural resources with a view to fast track Guyana’s social, infrastructural and economic development,” it added.

It further called on all Guyanese to remain vigilant and interested in ensuring that Guyana’s patrimony, in every regard, is protected and also to act in the best interest of the future development of this generation and generations to follow. “No longer must Guyana be indefinitely consigned to third world status and its people languish in less than desirable circumstances. We must join forces, as a nation, to ensure that every Guyanese enjoys the good life by the dint of hard work and the responsible exploitation of our nation’s God given resources,” the statement further said.

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