NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has withdrawn its application for security for costs in the Supreme Court during a hearing for the judicial review of its approvals for Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to drill for oil in The Bahamas.
Attorneys for the government submitted, during the hearing before Supreme Court Justice Petra Hanna-Adderley, that the withdrawal was made in an effort to save time and costs.
The government was seeking security for cost of $200,000 for the entire action or to have it dismissed.
Last week, Hanna-Adderley granted applicants leave to seek judicial review of the government’s approvals for oil drilling, ruling that Save The Bays (STB) and Waterkeeper Bahamas Limited (WBL) have “an arguable case”.
However, Hanna-Adderley denied the application for a stay of the ongoing drilling exercise — a process that began on December 20.
Attorneys on behalf of the respondents applauded the government for its decision yesterday.
“They have removed a major obstacle to the hearing of this case,” STB and WBL representatives said.
“…From the beginning, we have sought to have a trial on the merits of the case, and avoid delays and obstructions that prevent us accessing the courts until it is too late.
“Time is of the essence, the drill bit is turning and if we are successful, it would be a shame for this to have been an exercise in futility.”
The group noted that in the past, public interest litigation has been derailed and “priced out of justice” by security for cost applications.
This often involves those bringing actions in the public interest to ensure due process and lawful development, to put up funds before they can actually have their day in court.
“The government has taken a huge step in the direction of the swift administration of justice and we thank them for their responsible behavior,” the representatives said.
The applicants are seeking to quash the decision of the government to grant environmental approvals for BPC last year.
In court documents, the applicants made the case that the approvals granted to BPC for drilling an exploratory well in southwestern waters of The Bahamas were procedurally wrong, unfair and unlawful.
BPC has applied to the court to become a part of the proceedings, though the company was not named as a respondent in the judicial review application.
The company has argued that the judicial review application was without merit, and relies on the affidavit of BPC CEO Simon Potter.
The matter was adjourned until the judge could return with her decision on adding the oil company to the application.