UNDETERRED: Oil company still views Bahamas as ripe for investment after judicial review discontinued

UNDETERRED: Oil company still views Bahamas as ripe for investment after judicial review discontinued

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Challenger Energy’s chief executive said the company’s confidence in The Bahamas as a reliable investment location has been reinforced after an environmentalist-driven judicial review was discontinued in court.

The Supreme Court last week endorsed a consent order that effectively brought to an end a judicial review of the government’s approvals to the company then known as Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to drill an exploratory well in Bahamian waters.

The order requested that the judicial review action is discontinued and that each party bears its own costs.

In January, Save the Bays (STB) and Waterkeepers Bahamas had requested the review to confirm whether BPC had attained all of the necessary permits and approvals under the law to carry out exploratory offshore drilling and to have the courts establish the proper, lawful procedure for projects of this kind going forward.

The site of Perseverance #1.

Eytan Uliel, chief executive officer of Challenger Energy, commenting on the matter, said: “Our company has been committed to The Bahamas for over a decade, and has spent over $150 million on its Bahamian operations to-date.

“Despite the fear-mongering engaged in by the applicants during the course of their action, the Perseverance #1 exploration well was ultimately drilled safely, responsibly and without any environmental or operating incident.

“We have always complied with all relevant laws and regulations, and we have never had any issue with government decisions pertaining to our business being subjected to proper scrutiny and review.

“However, in the instant case, the timing and manner in which the applicant groups brought their action was entirely cynical — at the last minute and with the clear intent of not seeking any genuine process of judicial review, but rather to derail a legitimate business project that does not agree with their political agenda.”

Uliel added: “We are glad that the Bahamian Court did not reward this conduct, thereby reinforcing our confidence in The Bahamas as a reliable investment location, and we are pleased that the judicial review application has now been definitively discontinued.”

Still, environmental groups asserted their efforts proved successful.

In a statement on the decision, STB and Waterkeepers Bahamas branded the judicial review challenge a “huge success” in sparking global awareness and sending a strong warning to others who may seek to pursue a similar venture in the future.

Crew members of the Greenpeace flagship vessel Rainbow Warrior protest oil drilling in The Bahamas in November 2020.

Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeepers Bahamas, noted the enormous attention that the legal case drew to issues surrounding oil drilling in The Bahamas in general, both locally and abroad.

STB Legal Director Fred Smith, QC, lamented the fact that environmentalists continue to be priced out of justice by the government and developers ganging up on environmental activists and small business owners.

Smith said the challenge nevertheless put oil companies on notice that they must respect and adhere to all legal and regulatory requirements if they want to operate in The Bahamas.

“Whether you are Bahamas Petroleum Company or any other entity, consider yourself duly warned: The Bahamas has a strong, outspoken environmental activist community that will aggressively challenge any project if it appears that the procedures mandated by law might not have been followed,” he said.

In early February, BPC reported that drilling had ceased on the Perseverance #1 well, with the well permanently plugged and abandoned after commercial quantities of oil were not found.