Civil society activists push back against EPA, ExxonMobil’s efforts to block High Court decision

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 May 2023, 21:28 by Denis Chabrol

Two civil society activists on Wednesday fought desperately to convince Guyana’s Court of Appeal that ExxonMobil’s Liza 1 well should be suspended if the company could not fork out more money for an unlimited financial guarantee to clean up the environment if there is an oil spill.

Though lawyers for ExxonMobil and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were extremely confident that the appeal had an excellent chance of succeeding, Attorney-at-Law Seenath Jairam emphasised that the appeal could not succeed. ” The grounds of appeal have no chance like a snowball and held in hellfire cannot succeed none of them were consulted,” he said.

Civil society activists Frederick Collins and Godfrey Whyte secured a High Court ruling in their favour that the Environmental Protection Agency must suspend Liza 1’s operations because there is no unlimited financial guarantee.

“The grounds of appeal, have no chance like a snowball and held in hellfire cannot succeed none of them were consulted, that may be sitting very esoteric language and, and colorful language and adjectives,” he added.

However, the company said there could be nothing like an unlimited assurance and that the amount of money would have to be pegged to an estimated cost to scrub the environment of an oil spill. “The form of financial assurance must be related to an estimate of the sum,” ExxonMobil’s lawyer, Edward Luckhoo told the court presided over by Justice of Appeal Rishi Persaud. He maintained that the ruling of the trial judge was “clearly wrong”.

Without providing details in oral arguments, Mr Luckhoo cautioned that “if the permit is suspended, the revenues will be forfeited; they are not recoverable.” ” The permit is for a finite period and revenue loss is revenue lost so that is the injustice which will be suffered,” he added.
Mr Jairam pointed out, though that neither the EPA nor Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited or so has put before you any credible evidence that they will be ruined financially, like the lion attack health finance case.

The judge did not fix a date for his decision on whether the stay of the High Court’s orders would be granted pending the Court of Appeal’s hearing and determination of the appeal by the EPA and ExxonMobil, the operator in the Stabroek Block.

Also seeking to obtain a stay of Justice Sandil Kissoon’s order is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin, argued that that regulatory agency could not suspend operations at the Liza 1 well without first giving ExxonMobil’s Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) a hearing.

Mr Datadin told the High Court that it would be unacceptable to take the general proposition that the permit holder would be liable and translate that into what they must provide security for.

However, Attorney-at-Law Seenath Jairam, who is representing Mr Collins and Mr Whyte, said the EPA enjoyed the right to suspend or cancel the permit. he said regulation 14 says the agency at any time by notice in writing to the holder of the permit, cancel or suspend an environmental authorization or impose such conditions as the agency considers appropriate in addition to or in place of existing conditions.