AG: Govt will not pursue cost in oil judicial review

AG: Govt will not pursue cost in oil judicial review
Attorney General Carl Bethel. (FILE PHOTO)

BPC seeking $200,000 security for exploratory oil judicial review

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel said while he expected Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to seek security for cost in an ongoing judicial review proceeding concerning approval to drill an exploratory oil well, the government will not go back on its decision to withdraw its application to the Supreme Court for cost.

“An interested party who is granted leave to join a judicial review because they would be affected by the result and they want to be heard, the principle is long established that they are entitled to get security for cost,” he said.

“I mean, every case is decided on its own merit, and so the court would have to consider what BPC has to say on the issue.

“But the Bahamas government is not going to be seeking security for cost.

“We withdrew our application for that.”

In January, Supreme Court Justice Petra Hanna-Adderley ruled that BPC and Bahamas Offshore Petroleum Company may be added as a party to the judicial review, accepting that the companies would be impacted by the legal proceedings.

BPC has made an application for security in the sum of $200,000.

The government was seeking security for costs of $200,000 for the action or have it dismissed.

But it withdrew its application last month, submitting to the court the move was made in an effort to save time and costs.

BPC is also seeking to have all further proceedings stayed, pending the applicants giving security for costs to BPC.

Bethel said he was unable to speak to BPC’s decision to seek security for cost as it has its own legal counsel.

He said his job is to solely defend the acts of the substantive minister and the approval of grants to drill an exploratory oil well.

As it relates to BPC’s security for cost application, Bethel said: “I have not seen the latest report since this application was made because this is the first I am hearing of it although I anticipated that it would be made. So, I’ll get a report at some point…

“But what tends to happen now is the judges take more leadership in these matters and don’t allow things to be left to the election of the parties.

“They set deadlines, timelines, etc. So, I am sure that would have been done in this case.”

Asked about the timelines of the judicial review and whether the application could impact it, Bethel said any matter of public importance is given some degree of urgency.

BPC began drilling an exploratory oil well in December.

The process is expected to take between 45 and 60 days and will gauge whether the site has significant oil reserves.

In an affidavit in support of an ex parte summons seeking security for costs, Graham Thompson partner John F Minnis said neither environmental group — Waterkeeper Bahamas Limited or Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay — has commercial business operations within The Bahamas or owns any assets within The Bahamas.

Minnis said he believed neither entity has sufficient assets to satisfy an order to pay BPC’s costs if ordered to do so.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.