Gov’t may contemplate moratorium on further offshore oil concessions
Other than Belize Natural Energy, no other company has struck oil in commercial quantities. There is a veritable chase similar to that of the California Gold Rush and prospectors have bought chunks of concessions hoping to one day see the slick of sweet black crude oil. But the environmental community has been focusing on the perils that come with a budding oil industry. APAMO, OCEANA, and COLA have formed a green reef type of coalition against offshore drilling. Earlier in the week, they made a joint presentation to the Belize Tourism Industry Association, asking industry stakeholders, hoteliers, tour guides, and fishermen, to join the coalition. All indications are that the B.T.I.A. is leaning towards joining the group. Initially Prime Minister Dean Barrow had rejected the idea of a ban, but today before he departed for Miami he told News Five that he would take seriously the concerns of the green reef coalition.
“Some NGO’s are asking for a moratorium or a ban on offshore drilling. They are asking the BTIA to join them. The BTIA intends to respond by the eight, World Ocean Day. Does that concern you? Will it make a difference?”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“No, no. It may make a difference. I continue to say while what is happening in the states must give all of us pause for thought, I don’t think it means you just throw up your hands and say that’s it, there can never be any possibility of offshore drilling. What it does do is to force all of us the NGO’s the people in society and government to find out much more than we know about what the procedures would be. What the conditions would have to be put in place to give us the level of comfort that we all require. At the end of the process perhaps the science and the empirical evidence will convince us that nothing is risk free. In fact it would be impossible to minimize the risk that they would be comfortable. If we reach that point, the government will certainly have to, I think, contemplate a moratorium on further concessions for offshore drilling. The trick then would be what happens to the concessions that had already been giving. People have in fact made some investments. It will cost us in terms of damages, in terms of compensation but we cross that bridge when we get to it. So if I could recap Jose, it seems to me it’s a wide open debate, I certainly am not going to be premature and simply declare surrender in terms of those who want a pronouncement from now, I won’t do that. But I perfectly understand the gravity of the issue and how very much we have to weigh everything in the balance and try to make the right decision that will not see us likely foreclose on the possibility of likely further oil discovery that can help this country move forward, while at the same time recognizing unless we can have certain assurances, the cost benefit analysis shows it is not worth continuing.”
Next week on the occasion of World Ocean Day, the green reef coalition will have a public forum at the Radisson to expose the dangers of oil spills.