The opposition submitted its initial view on the draft Petroleum Bill to the media and has maintained that the timeframe for consultation is too short and that they will not be submitting any commentary directly to the government. This is quite unfortunate on the part of the opposition. However, having reviewed their preliminary views, it would appear that they do not quite understand the nature of Bill, and what it should and should not address.
The opposition argued that the Bill remains silent on crucial issues such as insurance and liability coverage. This omission, according to the opposition, is particularly alarming given the legal disputes that have arisen. The issue of insurance, financial assurance and liability coverage are fully covered under the Environmental Protection Act. Hence, the Petroleum Bill does not need to address such provisions which is already catered for in another legislation. Section 31 (1) – (5) of the EPA Act deals exclusively with financial assurance. And in so far as the Bill is concerned, sections 92 and 94 addressed “liability and indemnity” and “litigation against the State”, respectively.
With respect to the rules governing the auction process, this is a fair observation, but can be addressed in the regulation following the enactment of the legislation.
The concern expressed about the government spending directly from cost oil is not an issue for the Petroleum Bill. This is a fiscal matter which is already provided for in the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA). The same can be said for the audits that the opposition argued should be included in the Bill, which is already addressed in the PSA.
Lastly, the opposition repeated a position by the Kaieteur News that the Bill did not address the Petroleum Commission. As I explained in a previous letter, the functions of the Petroleum Commission will be of a regulatory nature and therefore requires a separate piece of legislation.
Altogether, the preliminary criticisms by the opposition lacked much substance. They have missed an opportunity to submit meaningful contributions on the Bill.