Members of Guyana’s National Assembly on Monday debated and passed the Petroleum (Production and Exploration) Amendment Bill-2021 which will now ensure proper oversight by the government during the acquisition of private lands by a licensee for major oil projects. Significantly, it ensures that there is proper compensation for citizens when such lands are acquired.
The amendments were made in the name of Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat. During the second reading of the Bill, the Minister noted that the amendments occur at Section 52 of the Principal Act to enhance the Government’s management of the development of the petroleum sector onshore. He said it provides additional scope for the Minister to oversee the exercise of a licensee’s rights over private land and will further strengthen and protect private proprietary interests as enshrined in the Constitution.
Expounding further, the Mr. Bharrat said the Bill addresses matters concerning the landing, installation and operation of pipelines or submarine, fibre optic or terrestrial cables or similar infrastructure by licensees for, or in connection with, prospecting or production operations, in relation to State land, Government land, land wholly owned by State entities or in which any controlling interest is vested in the State and any land identified by law or on a plan drawn and approved in accordance with any law for reserves. He said this is necessary to better accommodate onshore development with all of its accompanying heavy infrastructural works, such as those associated with the fiber optic cable to monitor production offshore and the US$900M gas-to-energy project.
Mr. Bharrat said the amendments would also apply to existing licensee operations as well as those who may wish to join the race for oil in Guyana in the future.
Also speaking on the importance of the Bill was Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall. The Parliamentarian articulated that the purpose of the Bill is to take away from the licensee, absolute power, to ensure private property is respected and ensure compulsory acquisition once done, is done lawfully. He said it was done to ensure that as far as possible, the pipeline for the US$900M gas-to-energy project for example, runs along State lands so as to have the least interference with private property hence he recalled that the route of the pipeline was published to ensure that anyone who would notice they would be affected, can fall under the new protective mechanisms of the Act.
On this premise, the Legal Affairs Minister asked that the Bill be given a smooth passage. Mr. Bharrat then wrapped up the debate which also saw presentations from the Opposition’s David Patterson, Annette Ferguson and Devin Sears as well as from the government’s Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance in the Office of the President, Dr. Ashni Singh and Public Works Minister, Bishop Juan Edghill.
The House then resolved itself into a committee to consider the various clauses of the amendments. It was then read for a second time and passed on the heels of the government’s votes.