Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities Clarifies Oceana’s Misinformation Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:00

The Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities notes with regret a recent press release by Oceana in which it persists in putting its spin on the judgment delivered on April 16th, 2013 by Justice Legall concerning certain oil exploration contracts awarded by the previous government. In that judgment, His Lordship made certain declarations against the Ministry but not against the oil companies. Most importantly, the Judge specifically refused to quash the oil exploration contracts.

The legal consequences that follow from what the Judge ordered as well as what he refused to order are purely a legal issue.

For that reason, the Ministry has obtained and has acted upon legal advice from one of the nation’s most respected attorneys at law , which states in the clearest possible terms that the effect of the Judge’s refusal to quash or terminate the contracts is to leave them fully enforceable by the oil companies. That advice emphasized that no order or judgment was made against any oil company, none of which was even a party in the court case. This point was fully made by the Ministry in its written and oral arguments to the Honourable Chief Justice on its recent application to stay the effect of Justice Legall’s judgment.

Consistent with the legal advice received, the Ministry is obliged to treat the contracts as binding and enforceable against the country of Belize by the oil companies. It would take the legal authority of a judgment of the Court, clearly expressed to be binding and enforceable against the oil companies, to quash or cancel the contracts. Only such a judgment can take away the contractual rights awarded to the oil companies. The Ministry repeats: there is no such judgment.

For that reason, the Ministry, in issuing maps showing oil exploration areas held by the various oil companies, had no choice but to recognize the fact that Princess Petroleum Belize Limited and Providence Belize Energy Limited oil companies continue to hold these exploration areas given to them by contract.

The Ministry respects the right of Oceana and others to espouse their views on issues concerning oil exploration and production. However, it must reject as irresponsible the insistence on putting the spin on Justice Legall’s judgment that it takes away the contractual rights of the oil companies.

The Ministry refuses to be driven into the reckless course for which Oceana is pushing, which could expose the country to claims by oil companies for hundreds of millions of US dollars in damages. At this very moment, St. Lucia is defending a claim for US$560 million for cancelling an oil exploration license to Jack Grynberg’s RSM Production Corporation, as a Google inquiry will show. The Ministry will take every care to avoid exposing Belize to such a claim.

The Ministry ends by pointing out that if Oceana honestly believed the spin it is putting on Justice Legall’s judgment, that it cancelled the rights of the oil companies under the contracts, Oceana would long ago have applied to the courts to stop the continuing exploration activities the oil companies, or to compel the Ministry to stop them, or to find the Government to be in contempt of court.