Belize's Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the Government of Belize (in 2004 and 2007) null and void.
The ruling, handed down by Justice Oswell Legall , was in response to a case brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. It effectively ends the Belizean government's immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Meso American Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world.
The court overturned the contracts after determining that the government failed to assess the environmental impact on Belize's ocean, as required by law, prior to issuing the contracts. The court also found that contracts were made to companies that did not demonstrate a proven ability to contribute the necessary funds, assets, machinery, equipment, tools and technical expertise to drill safely.
Oceana has long voiced its concern about the potentially devastating impact of an oil spill on Belize's reef and its economy, which depends heavily on tourism and the barrier reef. The companies were granted the oil concessions essentially in secret. Princess Petroleum, whose contract was just overturned, began as a hotel and casino company before it was granted concession to explore for oil. The company was granted exploration rights by the Government of Belize over the Blue Hole, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination made famous by legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.
Bill Lahey , a senior partner at the law firm of Anderson & Kreiger that helped represent Oceana in this case said, "Anderson & Kreiger is honored to have helped Oceana win this major victory which protects one of world's most precious barrier reefs and tourism in Belize."