Kaieteur News – ExxonMobil Guyana Limited (EMGL) has applied to the Appeal Court to reverse a decision that the two citizens who successfully challenged their Permit for the Gas-to-Energy (GTE) pipeline had “sufficient interest”.
The company, formerly Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) was granted a Permit by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on November 25, 2022 for the pipeline aspect of the GTE project. The gas project also entails a Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility and a 300 megawatt power plant.
Two citizens, Elizabeth Hughes and Vanda Radzik approached the High Court in March this year, seeking that the Permit be quashed since the legal requirements were not met by the company at the time it applied for the Permit.
On October 5, 2023 the High Court ruled that the EPA acted ‘contrary to the law’ and ‘improper’, by granting a Permit to Exxon. Even though the Judge flagged the improper decision made by the regulator, the reliefs sought by the Applicants were not granted.
Consequently, Radzik and Hughes filed an appeal of the High Court’s decision not to quash the Environmental Permit to Exxon.
The oil company on November 28, 2023 filed an intention to contend that the decision of the High Court be varied. It believes that: “The findings of the trial Judge that the Appellants had sufficient interest in the subject matter of the application and/or that the Appellants had locus standi to institute the proceedings (should) be reversed.”
Exxon contends that the appellants lack locus standi to challenge the alleged breach of the Environmental Protection Act Regulations. It argued that Regulation 17(c) (ii) is for the protection of a definite category or group of persons, namely, landowners or occupiers.
In addition Exxon asked the High Court to reverse the finding of the trial Judge that at the time the Permit was granted it had no legal right or ability to conduct its scope of the Guyana GTE project without the consent of the landowners or occupiers.
In fact, the oil company said the Judge “failed to distinguish between ‘legal right’ and ‘ability’ to carry out the GTE project” without the consent of the landowners or occupiers.
Exxon said the Judge’s decision that Esso had failed to show that it had the legal right or ability to carry out the GTE project activity without the consent of the landowner or occupier should be reversed, adding that the findings were “against the weight of the evidence”.
The company is arguing that the Judge erred in finding that the decision by the EPA to grant the Permit for the pipeline was contrary or improper.
ExxonMobil is being represented by Guyanese Lawyers, Andrew Pollard, S.C and Edward Luckhoo, S.C.
The EPA as well as the Attorney General (AG) of Guyana, Anil Nandlall, S.C are respondents in the matter.
The highly touted GTE project is intended to deliver cleaner electricity at 50 percent of the current charges.
The pipeline currently being constructed by Exxon in Region Three will deliver natural gas from the Liza One and Liza Two fields in the Stabroek Block to the Wales Industrial site, West Bank Demerara. The gas will then be processed in the NGL facility to be built by government and ultimately used for power generation.
Citizens Radzik and Hughes in their Appeal of the High Court’s ruling stated, “the learned Judge took into account irrelevant matters namely the purported expenditure while failing to take judicial notice of relevant matters such as the questionable expenditure claims made by (Exxon) as revealed in the public pronouncements of members of government.”
They argue that the learned judge failed to have due regard to the utility of the declaration in the context of the application of Guyana’s Environmental Laws and the importance of a declaration to clarify and confirm the legal duties of the respondent authority.
Justice Sewnarine-Beharry in her October 5, 2023 decision stated that, “Cognisance must be paid to the fact that significant fiscal expenditure has been injected into the Gas to Energy pipeline. A quashing order would disproportionately disadvantage Esso Guyana and the State by halting significant project development already underway. Moreover, it may also have an unintended consequence of impacting innocent third parties to the project development, all while proving to be a brutum fulmen in the way of substantive relief for the Applicants.”
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