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#406579 - 04/30/11 01:56 AM Early Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission
Marty Offline
Press Conference on Preliminary Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission

Belize City, Belize, May 2, 2011 - - The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at Programme for Belize (PfB) office at #1 Eyre Street to present the preliminary findings of oil expert, Richard Steiner’s technical mission to Belize.

Richard Steiner has been conducting a rapid environmental assessment as it relates to potential impacts from the petroleum industry as well as reviewing Belize’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. During his technical mission, Mr. Steiner has made a courtesy call to the Prime Minister and met with the Chief Environmental Officer. Further meetings are planned with personnel from the Government of Belize.

At the completion of his technical mission, Mr. Steiner will provide the Coalition with recommendations that will be integrated into a comprehensive set of recommendations adddressing economic, environmental, legal and social issues as it relates to the petroleum industry. These recommendations will be forwarded to the Government of Belize.

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#406886 - 05/04/11 02:33 PM Re: Early Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BNE Rejects Visiting Oil Expert

The Belize Coalition to Save Our National Heritage has collected close to 15 thousand signatures of the 17 thousand required to trigger a referendum on oil drilling in offshore and protected areas.

But the Coalition - which represents 41 organizations - is also busy on other fronts. The group has gotten U.S. oil expert Richard Steiner to come up with a rapid environmental assessment on various oil ventures in Belize.

Steiner has travelled the world assessing oil impacts - particularly oil spills, from the Exxon Valdez to the Deep-water Horizon and he says Belizeans have to make an informed decision on which way they want to go:…

Richard Steiner - U.S. oil expert
"This issue of whether to allow oil and gas and where to do iy and how to do it. There is positives and negatives. there are certainly positives with jobs and more revenue to the government, there is no question about that if there is oil found, but there is also negatives; there's the environmental risks, there is a probability of a shifting of your economy to something that you may not and want and you may want - I don't know but the thing that you are at risk of is jeopardizing the existing sustainable jobs say as in tourism and in commercial fishing and other sustainable jobs that you have right now. The risks are real. I generally find that government and industry tend to understate the risk and overstate the benefit and I think it's important for Belize to have the facts about what the risks are. In general globally oil and gas development is not compatible with protected areas. Offshore there is a lot of oil and gas being develop offshore around the world right now but in places that are world heritage site such as the barrier reef system here it would be extraordinary risk and it's your decision whether or not you want to pose that sort of risk to Belizean waters into your existing sustainable tourism and fishing economy. There is no single model from any other country that can be applied. Every country is unique with the resources you have, but I will say that with your World Heritage Barrier Reef offshore, the site down at Sarstoon/Temash - these are global treasures that should not be put at risk by short term development unless it was absolutely in the national interest to do so."

And while Steiner says he's operating for the National Interest, as far as we could tell he's retained by the Coalition; he's been embedded with them and the Press conference this morning was held at their office in the Programme For Belize building.

So, we asked, won't his findings reflect the Coalition's agenda? Here's what he had to say:..

Richard Steiner - U.S. oil expert
"I am not being paid by anybody, I'm doing this pro bono as a labor of love, something I feel very passionately about and I am not receiving a dime for this project which is one of the reasons it has to be short because I do have to meet somebody elsewhere in the world and I do have some projects in Nigeria and elsewhere. But this one - I am just here, I'm doing this project pro bono for Coalition - for the government which is why I am retaining complete independence and my recommendations are going to be as independent and objective as I can possible make them."

Steiner and Coalition representatives met with the Prime Minister on Friday, and, today, they described him as extremely receptive.

But one group that hasn't been receptive is Belize's only oil-producing company, Belize Natural Energy. The company had invited the coalition members to visit and tour their facilities in Spanish Lookout - but Chairman Brackett consistently refused.

But he said he would be willing to take up the offer only with Steiner accompanying him - and that's when BNE refused to entertain any non-Belizean experts, advisors, or activists.

But, regardless, Coalition Chairman Brackett accompanied by Audrey Matura Shepherd from member group Oceana went with Steiner to the Iguana Creek Facility on Friday morning. But they never made it past the lobby.

Brackett says they were greeted by Kevin Herrerra, the CEO of CHx who was none too pleased at the surprise visit with an un-invited guest:….

Richard Steiner - U.S. oil expert
"The coalition was told recently by BNE and their subsidiary that under no circumstances would they allow foreign expert to come visit their facility, so that's not a very good way to start a functional relationship between the oil industry and the people of Belize I must say and it makes BNE look like they have something to hide and if they have something to hide let us know it and if they have anything to hide let us come in and take a look at it."

Geovanni Brackett, Vice-President COLA
"He was very rude in saying that he can't understand 'looks like I am suffering from the "pop syndrome"' a colonial mentality that we have to bring this international person when we can rely on our own expertise and I let him go on for some period and I stop and said for somebody is trying to engage me, you are very rude and insulting. I said to him 'how would you feel if I refer to you as the house slave, living inside the masters house, not having to worry about the environment and the changes - the things that affect me on the outside'. I said to him that I can't understand 'you are insulting', I mean what we wanted was nothing bad, no hidden agenda other than Rick needed to view any element related to the oil and gas industry to get a grasp of what's happening and what's at risk and so I was very disappointed that they turn off our request. In terms of response this is coalition press conference and I'll say that the coalition will take the matter into consideration but Jules as the Vice President of COLA I don't take that very well, so I think whatever retribution follows I just hope that BNE would their position."

Richard Steiner - U.S. oil expert
"This is not BNE oil. This is the people of Belize oil."

We tried multiple times to reach Herrera for his account of that exchange but he did not respond to voicemails or text messages.

On Thursday, Steiner will be joined by economist Richard Feinberg at a public forum in Belize City at the UWI Auditorium..

Channel 7


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#406887 - 05/04/11 02:35 PM Re: Early Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

OIL EXPERTS TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOVERNMENT

Oil experts, Richard Steiner and Richard Finberg are on a technical mission in Belize conducting assessments of potential impacts from the petroleum industry. Steiner has been in the country for one week now and his visit is being made possible by the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage. Steiner has met with Prime Minister, Dean Barrow and will be in Belize for one more week during which he hopes to have further meetings with government officials and other stakeholders in the industry. This morning, the Coalition along with Steiner, who has over thirty years of experience in the field, held a press conference to present his preliminary findings in his ongoing assessment. Geovanni Bracket is the Vice President of the Coalition.

Geovanni Brackett – Vice President, Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage “The first is Richard Steiner and we have Richard Finberg who is an economist, Richard Steiner is an expert in assessing oil impacts as well as other related industrial development. Richard Finberg is an economist who has had extensive years of experience in assessing production sharing agreements particularly in the state of Alaska where there is a tremendous amount of oil activity, I think about 80% of their revenues comes from oil. The coalition is having these two technical experts to come in to one, to assess the situation in Belize, to do a fact finding mission from a scientific and technical standpoint in terms of Rick’s visit to assess where Belize is at. We wanted to dispel or to at least have someone independently come in to assess our presentation, the information that we have been disseminating.”

Steiner says that it is important for Belize to start on the right foot in the industry especially since the country is new in the industry.

Richard Steiner, Oil Expert

“My purpose here is to listen and learn for these couple of weeks. We have been to several of these protected areas both offshore and onshore. I have met with several other people including the Prime Minister, I certainly appreciate that, who seemed very open to the recommendations I will be making. Let me also say that as a non Belizean it is not my decision what you folks decide. This issue of whether to allow oil and gas and how to do it, and where to do it, there is positives and negatives. There are certainly positives with jobs and more revenue to the Government, there is no question about that, if there is oil found. But there is also negatives, there is the environmental risk, there is a probability of a shifting of your economy, to something that you may not want and you may what, I do not know but the thing you are at risk of is jeopardizing the existence of sustainable jobs as in tourism and in commercial fishing and other sustainable jobs that you have right now. The risks are real. I generally find that Governments and industry tend to understate the risk and overstate the benefit and I think it is important for Belize to have the facts about what the risks are.”

Steiner also spoke on some of the impacts that Belize’s environment could be prone to especially off shore drilling or in protected areas.

Richard Steiner, Oil Expert

‘The oil spill contingency plan in process is very new; there is no existing good oil spill plan here and even if there is, when there is, I will certainly help the Government and the industry put one together. But even when there is, we have learnt that there is no such thing as an effective oil spill response to an offshore marine oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico is a great example. I’ve looked along your coastline flying over it; it is largely as you know, mangroves, right down to the shore. If oil comes from the offshore into this area, there is no way you are going to be effectively cleaning it up at all. The damage will be there, there will be little you could do about the damage, oil and water, fish and wildlife don’t mix. This issue of where to allow it becomes very critical. In general, globally, oil and gas development is not compatible with protected areas. Offshore, there is a lot of oil and gas being developed offshore around the world right now, but in places that are world heritage site such as the barrier reef system here, it would be extraordinary risk. It is your decision whether or not you want to pose that sort of risk to Belizean waters and to your existing sustainable tourism and fishing economy but it is an enormous risk if there were a disaster or even a small spill offshore in the exploration or in production.”

At the end of his visit, Steiner will make recommendations from his assessment which the Coaltion will be handing to the Government for review.

LOVEFM


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#406890 - 05/04/11 02:39 PM Re: Early Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage’s expert assess oil industry

The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage is involved on a nationwide campaign for a referendum on the question of oil drilling and exploration. It is still short of the seventeen thousand signatures required for the poll, but as the deadline approaches, it has solicited the help of two foreign technical experts to assess the oil and petroleum situation in Belize. It is early to tell whether the public will support oil drilling but the Coalition says that they hope that the expert findings to be released before the end of this month will be used to make informed decisions. The first of the two experts who said he is working pro bono, Rick Steiner, a professor in Anchorage Alaska has been in Belize over the past week on a scientific and technical fact finding mission to evaluate the country’s position in terms of spill liability, financial liability, regulations and Environmental Impact Assessments. But according to Steiner, unlike other countries, the industry doesn’t yet have adequate standards for oil production.

Rick Steiner, Professor, Anchorage, Alaska

Rick Steiner

“This is a hugely important decision for Belize; whether to do additional oil and gas exploration development in Belize, where to do it and how to do it. If it is to be done, it has to be done with the highest global standards, best available technology using American Petroleum Institute and American Society for Mechanical Engineering standards. Many other countries require their oil industry to meet those standards as a legal requirement, my understanding so far here is that Belize has no such requirement and so that there are likely insufficient standards here for the existing oil and gas production you have at Spanish Lookout.”

Giovanni Brackett, Chairman, Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage

“We wanted to meet with the management at Big Creek, the port but that hasn’t been as accommodating. We wanted also to meet with B.N.E. since they’re the only oil producing company and that would’ve been an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between the advocates and the oil company. But they made it very clear from couple months ago that would not entertain such activity to have a foreign expert tour their compound.”

Rick Steiner

“If an oil well blows out and its in an aquatic or wet ecosystem like at Sarstoon Temash you can have large oil spill in an aquatic system that you simply could not deal with. That’s another important point here that the oil spill contingency plan in process is very new, there is no existing good oil spill plan here and even if there is, when there is, I will certainly help the government and industry put one together. But even when there is, we’ve learned that there is no such thing as an effective oil spill response to an offshore marine oil spill.”

Giovanni Brackett

Giovanni Brackett

“We visited the Rio Bravo Reserve these past couple days, walking the seismic lines that have been done three-four years ago, some by B.N.E., and some by RSM. It was very visible to see that after couple years this vegetation hasn’t grown, that it has led to increase in illegal logging and in some case, the illegal capturing of parrots and the general increase pressures on the reserves. It was the same thing in the Sarstoon Temash Park, which is a RAMSAR site.”

Rick Steiner

“As we flew over the country last couple of days I saw lots of areas that probably would have low environmental sensitivity that could you know be open to oil and gas development., those areas around the large agricultural plots you know down in Stann Creek and such like that and some very flat areas that are non-permeated with water where if you had a major spill it probably wouldn’t flow so there are some areas which you probably could zone as appropriate with the best available technologies for oil and gas but there are also some areas that should remain sacrosanct and should not be open to oil development.”

Steiner said that Belize is party to two of the International Marine Pollution Protocol Pollution Protocol which are Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund which covers Belize up to three hundred million U.S. dollars in the case of a massive offshore oil spill. However, Belize isn’t a part of the Supplementary Fund which covers up to over one billion U.S. dollars. Richard Fineberg, an Economist who specializes in Production Sharing Agreements, is expected to arrive in the country this Wednesday. We contacted Kevin Herrera, C.E.O. at CH Belize Energy LP, who said that they have extended the invitation to the executive of the Coalition for a tour of B.N.E.’s facilities but that invitation was turned down. Herrera went on to say that the coalition seemed more interested in bringing a foreign expert, something which they will not accommodate on the grounds that they aren’t sure of the terms of reference of the expert nor have they ever heard of such a request to entertain a third party expert.

Channel 5


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#407196 - 05/07/11 03:54 PM Re: Early Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Petroleum analyst says public needs to be on guard

On Tuesday we told you that the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage had engaged Rick Steiner, a renowned US oil expert, to assess the oil industry in Belize. Steiner, who says his assignment is pro bono, has concluded that oil and gas development is not compatible with protected areas. Well, a second expert, Richard Fineberg, an independent oil analyst from Alaska, with equal credentials, arrived in Belize less than forty-eight hours ago and he says he is already detecting inconsistencies at play in the industry and that there is a disturbing lack of information. Fineberg says his trip to Belize is a short one and while he won’t be able to cover all that needs to be examined closely, he believes the public needs to be on guard because he is already sensing discrepancies in production, revenues and profits which do not augur well for Belizeans.

Richard Fineberg, Independent Oil Analyst, Fairbanks, Alaska

Richard Fineberg

“Given that the production is so small it is so it is an unusual situation and the costs on how you portion your costs on what is revenue and to be shared, the difference between the price of oil and the cost is what the public and B.N.E., there is a natural tension between the two. With all respects they bring in that revenue they want to keep as much as they can, that’s their jobs. The responsibility to their investors, we have public responsibility to the public. I have been so surprised that just generally talking to informed people I thought we were producing two and a half million barrels a year, the number I was told in the Petroleum Inspector’s office is one and a half million barrels, that’s a million less barrels generating revenue. Basically I found that the people I’ve spoken to do not seem to have full understanding of the Production Share Agreement, the P.S.A., and the details of that or where the rubble meets the road and is precisely what you need information on as to how the costs are allocated to determine what is the cost and what is the revenue, actual profit or net revenue to be shared, the remainder of which doesn’t go to the Government is the net profit for the industry.”

Andrea Polanco

“Who are some of the people you spoke with so far?”

Richard Fineberg

“We met a group of us met with the Petroleum, uh, the inspector of Petroleum and the Government, that is the only formal meeting we’ve had so far. We met with various people informally we spoke with several people who work for the industry and discuss the matters with them and learnt some of the background. The issue is that the industry tries to maximize its revenue here in partnership with an industry in order to maximize your revenue from the people’s resource. There’s a natural conflict between the two at least a tension, we can call it a tension between the two which sometimes aids conflicts. The bottom line is that the public should be expecting more public information. My experience has been that when there is confidentiality and you don’t have information bad things happen. I can only tell you that your situation looks to be a very unusual one and it means the public should be on guard and should know what its government is doing.”

Fineberg, who is expected to leave the country in a few days, said he will be writing a summary report on his findings which will be submitted to the Coalition.

Channel 5


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#407358 - 05/10/11 06:40 AM Re: Early Findings of Oil Expert Technical Mission [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Look before you leap, warns foreign oil expert

Belize has yet to legislate into law proper safeguards and penalties to ensure that Belize’s natural heritage, the Meso-American Barrier Reef, and other environmental protected areas, would be protected against an oil spill, in the event that one of the companies which have been granted exploration concessions were to find oil and go into production.

This was the verdict of U.S. oil expert Richard Steiner, who was invited by the Belize Coalition to Save Our National Heritage to do a rapid environmental assessment and to review our national oil spill contingency plan. Steiner offered his services pro bono and announced his findings in a press conference at the Coalition’s office in the Programme for Belize building on Tuesday morning, May 3.

Steiner comes with impeccable credentials. A professor in marine biology and conservation at the University of Alaska from 1980 to 2010, now retired, he helped develop the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, passed in wake of the disastrous oil spill from the Exxon Valdez oil tanker in Prince William Sound, off Alaska in March 1989. Since then he has travelled the world, assessing environmental damage of oil spills, advising indigenous peoples and governments on clean-ups and other risks, as well as royalties and taxation issues.

There are pros and cons to finding and developing oil reserves, Steiner said, but Belize should not put at risk the financial bonanza it presently reaps from eco-tourism and the beauty of our UNESCO-certified World Heritage site, the Barrier reef.

The oil companies and even the government certainly have not downplayed the benefits of more jobs, more revenues from oil exports, if new reserves were to be found and developed. But Steiner said both the oil companies and government tend to understate the risks.

There are irreconcilable differences between oil and gas exploration and production, and environmentally protected areas; in general globally the two simply don’t go together, Steiner said. He urged Belizeans to get the facts. There is lot of oil and gas being developed offshore around the world right now but not around a world heritage site such as Belize’s barrier reef system, the second largest in the world.

Steiner said the World Heritage Barrier Reef offshore, and the Sarstoon/Temash Reserve are global treasures which should not be put at risk by short term development unless it was absolutely in the national interest to do so.

Based on Belize’s past experience of transferring and loading other exports such as sugar and molasses onto barges in our rivers and from barges to ships at sea, spills are unavoidable. Fortunately the damage from a sugar spill is not irreparable. Petroleum is much more fluid than either molasses or sugar, and while Belize Natural Energy Ltd. has been fortunate to have no spills to date, the same can not be said of the other players with exploration concessions who may find oil. There has been an oil spill from a smaller tanker, not carrying BNE petroleum that the Department of the Environment had to clean up. Increasing the traffic only increases the risk of an accident.

Belize is also woefully un-prepared technically and financially for any oil-spill clean-up at sea. Witness the case of the Panama-registered 200-foot freighter M.V. Helga, which was carrying salt from Mexico to Honduras, when it foundered in deep water outside the reef off the coast of Caye Caulker on March 19, this year with the loss of four members of the crew, including the captain. The Helga sank with over 25,000 gallons of heavy bunker C oil in its fuel tanks. Sooner or later, the iron hull of the ship will rust through to the point where that oil will leak out, float to the surface and come ashore, coating the shoreline mangroves and beaches with thick, balls of tar. No effort has been made to pump out the oil from the submerged vessel, as it is in very deep water.

The technology exists for steel–hulled vessels to be floated by pumping them full of the plastic chemicals, which react together to produce styrofoam to displace all the water in the ship’s cavities and the ship can be floated to the surface. International salvage law allows for the salvager to claim 50% of the value of the ship and cargo from the owners, but even this has not prompted a salvage operation of the Helga.

If we can’t cope with 25,000 gallons of oil, imagine what Belize would do if faced with a disaster such as the Deepwater Horizon which spilled 65,000 barrels (not gallons) of oil per day and spilled an estimated 4.9 million barrels from the explosion on April 20, 2010 until it was finally capped on July 15, 2010!

Aside from the cost of the clean-up, such a disaster would also destroy all the existing jobs in tourism from cruise and over-night visitors who come to enjoy the sun and the beauty of our white sandy beaches and crystal-clear blue sea. It would also destroy our fisheries industry.

Steiner met with Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow last Friday. The Coalition reports that the Prime Minister was very receptive, but Steiner said he had yet to meet with head of the Department of Petroleum Pedro Cho, even though he had tried several times. Steiner and the Coalition also met a shut-out when they tried to tour BNE facilities at Iguana Creek.

CEO Kevin Herrera later explained this by saying the Coalition had been invited to tour, but it was simply not done in international business circles to open company doors to a foreign expert, just like that. To this, Steiner said, if they have nothing to hide, why the lock-out? If everything is above board, allow an expert, public inspection to ensure transparency.

The coalition has been calling for government to hold a public referendum on oil exploration in offshore and protected areas and so far has collected close to 15,000 of the 17,000 signatures required to have the referendum.

Economist Richard Feinberg was also invited by the Coalition to evaluate Belize’s fiscal regime for the oil industry, especially the production-sharing agreements, and he joined Steiner in discussing these issues at a public forum at the UWI Auditorium in Belize City on Thursday evening, May 5th, 2011.

The Reporter


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