Jun 19, 2023 News
Kaieteur News – After succeeding in their bid for ExxonMobil to provide Guyana with a signed parent company guarantee, taking full responsibility for the destruction caused by an oil spill in the lucrative Stabroek Block, the Government of Guyana (GoG) has teamed up with the oil company to appeal the ruling of the High Court.
This however has not shaken the grave need for proper protection in the event of a spill. President of the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI), Frederick Collins in an exclusive interview with this newspaper recently said the legal team is prepared to take the fight for full liability coverage to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Supreme Court in such legal matters.
Collins and another citizen, Godfrey Whyte had filed an application in the High Court on September 13, 2022 through their Attorneys, Seenath Jairam, SC, Melinda Janki, and Abiola Wong-Inniss. In the case, Mr. Collins, a former insurance professional said, “An oil spill would be devastating for our country and Region as many Guyanese and Caribbean peoples depend on the ocean for their livelihoods. That is why we have decided that the time has come to take matters to the court for relief.”
On May 3, 2023, Justice Sandil Kissoon ruled in favour of the applicants, ordering Exxon to provide the unlimited parent guarantee within 30 days. Failure by the company to comply would have resulted in the suspension of the Liza One Permit. The Liza One project is currently producing about 150,000 barrels of oil per day. An appeal of the ruling was filed shortly after the decision was handed down and is ongoing in the Court.
Collins said that while he is confident in the outcome of the appeal, he is prepared to fight for the protection of Guyana and its Caribbean neighbours at the Trinidad-based CCJ. He told Kaieteur News that he does not believe the appeal by government and Exxon has potential for success.
Nevertheless, he explained, “The CCJ should be very interested in the proceeding, because it is as they call it the apex court of the subscribing countries, including Guyana. It also has an interest from the standpoint of the nature of the ruling. It seems to be ground breaking in terms of the pronouncements on the duties of society and what the Judge saw was at stake and so I would expect that the CCJ would be very interested in the case.”
Collins added that he believes the CCJ would be particularly interested in understanding why such an appeal would be struck down especially considering its worldwide importance. He pointed out that the case would be the first in which an oil company would be held to account up front for incidents from a country in which it is operating.
The GoG has appealed the ruling by Justice Sandil Kissoon arguing that it would suffer grave losses if the company’s Permit is suspended.
In its application to join the case as an interested party, attorney-at-law Laurel Dundas attached to the Attorney General Chambers, explained that the State stands to lose an immeasurable amount of revenue. The application noted, “if production ceases by the decision of the court, the Government of Guyana will be faced with huge revenue shortfalls, which would have disastrous consequences for the economy, the county’s developmental agenda, and private sector investments cumulating in immeasurable damage to the public good and the national interest.”
The Government expressed concerns at what it said would be the crippling and far-reaching effects if the ruling which was handed down by Justice Kissoon is allowed to stand.
Similarly, the oil company in its appeal of the ruling told the Appeal Court that it could suffer a massive financial loss if the Liza One Permit is suspended.
In its attempt to have the decision overturned, the Country Manager for Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Alistair Routledge in a document to support the appeal, carefully chronicled the grave financial loss in which the company will suffer as a result of having the permit suspended.
It noted that the company has produced 151,000 barrels of crude petroleum per day for the year 2023 on average, through March 2023.
It explained that, “This is approximately 4.5 million barrels per month…the most recent month’s average selling price for the Liza 1 petroleum was more than $US75 per barrel.”
“This means the monthly revenue loss for the Appellant Esso, the Co-venturers, and the State’s projected to be US$337.5m. This would amount to $US337.5m. per month or $US4b per annum that would be forfeit for each year while the appeal is pending,” the company stated.
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