Supreme Court hearing resumes today on oil drilling in The Bahamas
BPC advises shareholders that oil drilling “continues”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney Fred Smith, QC, yesterday urged the government to cooperate and ensure a quick judgment from the Supreme Court regarding the filing for judicial review of oil drilling in The Bahamas.
A Supreme Court judge will hear submissions from the government and lawyers of environmentalists on an application for judicial review of the approvals concerning Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) exploratory oil drilling, which began last week.
Smith, who represents the environmentalists, told Eyewitness News the matter is “an extremely important public interest case”.
“I urge the government, given that the prime minister has said that he is against oil drilling, to cooperate in having a quick judgment from the Supreme Court,” he said.
Smith accused the government of wasting money unnecessarily and judicial time, having hired a British QC for the case.
“Instead of wasting money and time fighting Fred Smith, they should look at how important the issues are and they cooperate and fast-track it to an early trial,” he said.
“They may as well change the name of the government to the BPC government instead of the Bahamian government. They should leave BPC to fight its own fight. Unfortunately, they are not.”
Smith added: “The case is very simple; we are asking the court to determine whether BPC and the government properly consulted and whether or not they have the proper permits.
“That is a slam-dunk case that could be dealt with in a day or two. Either they have the permits or they don’t.”
The application names Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira, Environmental Protection and Planning Director Rochelle Newbold and Attorney General Carl Bethel as respondents.
The applicants seek to challenge and have quashed Ferreira’s decision to grant environmental approvals in February; approved changes to the project and a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) in November; Newbold’s alleged approval of BPC’s EIA in February; approval of the amendment and resubmitted EIA in November; as well as the decision to approve changes to the project without “an amended EIA and EMP”.
The applicants also seek to challenge and have quashed the government’s decision in April to renew the validity of BPC’s licenses to December; the decision in August to renew those licenses to April 2021; the decision in November to renew or re-extend the validity of the company’s licenses to June 2021.
Last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Petra Hanna-Weekes denied the application for leave to bring the application out of time with the respect to the February and April decisions only.
However, Hanna-Weekes held judgment on the stay of drilling and other matters, which will be heard today.
Attorneys for BPC filed a summons on December 10 to join the application.
If leave is granted to the applicants to apply for judicial review on all or any of the matters, the oil company will be added to the matter.
Despite pushback from environmentalists, BPC began drilling its exploratory oil well 90 miles from Andros and approximately 270 miles from Nassau last week.
Environmentalist coalition Our Islands, Our Future has publicly expressed its objection to Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) allegedly attempting to join judicial review proceedings, claiming it to be a scheme to “price its opponents out of justice”.
During last Thursday’s Supreme Court session, BPC’s attorney Clare Montgomery, QC, said now that drilling has begun, it is “impossible to halt it”.
In a statement to its shareholders yesterday, BPC provided an update on the court procedures and advised that the request stay order to halt BPC’s drilling activities was refused.
“The ruling of the court on 24 December means that drilling of the Perseverance #1 well in The Bahamas, currently underway since 20 December 2020, has continued,” it said.