BPC says judicial review application “without merit”

BPC says judicial review application “without merit”
Bahamas Petroleum Company CEO Simon Potter. (PHOTO: BPC)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) Chief Executive Officer Simon Potter said yesterday the company will “vigorously oppose” the application for judicial review of the government’s decision to give the go-ahead to drill an exploratory well, slamming the application as “entirely without legal basis or merit”.

The company has informed investors that it plans to apply to the Supreme Court to be heard as an affected party to the application brought by a number of environmental activists. The company plans to commence drilling before year’s end. It noted that with considerable work having already been done, it anticipates that the application for a stay will be determined definitively by the court on an expedited basis, prior to drilling operations commencing.

“BPC believes the application to be without legal basis or merit and considers that there should be no legal impediment to proceeding with the drilling of the Perseverance #1 well,” the company said.

BPC noted that an application has been made for a judicial review of the government’s decision in February of this year to grant environmental authorization for BPC’s Perseverance #1 well.

“The applicants are also seeking a stay of the environmental authorization pending the outcome of any judicial review, an extension of time to make their application and have raised a number of other legal arguments in support of their claims. The respondent to the application is the government of The Bahamas. The applicants have specifically sought to exclude BPC from being heard in relation to this matter. BPC understands that the government of The Bahamas will oppose the application, and BPC intends to apply to the court to be heard as a person affected and to oppose the application,” the company stated.

Potter echoed BPC’s statement and said, “BPC’s drilling plans have been public knowledge for almost a decade and the government provided environmental authorization to BPC in February 2020, following an extensive program of work. Environmental activists could have sought to bring this application at any time; that they have waited until now, on the cusp of drilling, speaks to their true agenda, which is not any real concern for judicial process but simply to disrupt and stop our lawful activity.”

He added, “The government of The Bahamas is exercising its legitimate, sovereign right to establish if the nation of The Bahamas has its own commercial hydrocarbon resource. With the islands facing economic fragility, suffering from both hurricane damage and the impacts of COVID-19, a successful petroleum discovery has the potential to rebase the economy, generate billions in revenues over the life of the project and create new contracts and jobs. No oil will be produced by Perseverance #1 as it is purely a fact-finding exercise of short duration. The people of The Bahamas have a right to know if this resource is there for them and for future generations of Bahamians. In the past 10 years, many thousands of offshore oil wells have been drilled safely and without incident all around the world, and many other nations in the region such as the USA, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana, have over the past decades safely and responsibly drilled offshore wells, developed or continue to develop offshore hydrocarbon resources, and reaped the economic benefits of an established or a whole new industry. Moreover, these other nations have been able to do so at the same time as seeing growth and development of existing industry sectors, such as tourism.”

Potter said the government of The Bahamas is to be commended for what he called the “thorough, comprehensive process of review and scrutiny” the company has been put through for nearly a decade around the environmental authorization process for the drilling of the well, as well as for the Petroleum Act and Petroleum Operations related Regulations which were passed into law in 2016.

“In gaining its environmental authorization, BPC adhered to all applicable Bahamian laws, and over and above this adhered to all applicable guidelines, international standards and best practices. We look forward to proceeding with Perseverance #1 on schedule, and fulfilling our license commitments to the government of The Bahamas,” said Potter.

Opponents of BPC’s plan to drill an exploratory oil well by the end of the month said in a statement yesterday that they launched court proceedings this week in an effort to ensure that the rule of law is not being violated.

The judicial review application, filed on Tuesday, asks the court to examine the decisions by the government in granting environmental approvals and license renewals to BPC over the past several months, claiming the evidence suggests those decisions were procedurally unfair, unlawful and an abuse of power by the government.

Our Islands, Our Future, a grassroots coalition opposing BPC, has attracted dozens of local businesses, high-profile individuals and NGOs, including Waterkeeper Bahamas and the other plaintiff in the case, Save The Bays. International supporters include non-profits Oceana, Surfrider Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Earthjustice, the Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth and Mission Blue. The coalition’s online petition calling for a permanent ban on oil drilling in The Bahamas has more than 55,000 signatures to date.