Attorney General added by High Court as Party to Fixed Date Application instituted by Vanda Razik and Elizabeth Hughes to quash Environmental Permit No. 20210528-NGPLE
On the 27th day of March 2023, Vanda Radzik and Elizabeth Hughes (the Applicants) instituted legal proceedings against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking inter alia to quash the decision of the EPA to issue Environmental Permit No. 20210528-NGPLE (“the Permit”) to Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) to undertake the Gas to Energy Project and activities associated therewith. The Applicants grounded this challenge on the basis that at the time the Permit was issued,
the 25th day of November 2022, EEPGL purportedly did not have the requisite permission to conduct the activities on the lands for the gas pipeline route to the power plant.
On the 10th day of May 2023, the Attorney General of Guyana and EEPGL applied to the Court to be added as parties to the said legal proceedings.
In his application, the Attorney General contended inter alia that the State has a substantial interest in the decision under challenge and will be adversely affected by a judgment quashing the Permit, that is (i) any order quashing the Permit will directly impact the Government of Guyana in its capacity as a party to several contracts under the Gas to Energy Project. It would place the Government in a position of breach in relation to contracts already entered into for the construction of the power plant and would likely attract liabilities under those contracts; (ii) the public interest and the State’s fiscal interests would be adversely affected; and (iii) the State’s developmental trajectory in respect of the generation of low-cost electricity for Guyana and ultimately the realization of a lower cost of living for Guyanese would be disrupted; (iv) being a party that would be so adversely affected by the outcome of these proceedings, the provisions of the Judicial Review Act and the principles of natural justice aggregate to qualify the State and the Attorney General as it’s legal representative and the guardian of the public interest, to be added and to fully participate in the proceedings.
Both Applications by the Attorney General and EEPGL to be added as parties to the legal proceedings were opposed by Counsel for the Applicants at a hearing on the 11th day of May 2023. The hearing Judge, the Honourable Justice Priya Sewnarine Beharry heard oral arguments from the Attorney General and Counsel for the Applicants and EEPGL on the issue of whether the Attorney General and EEPGL should be added as parties to the said matter. Justice Sewnarine-Beharry adjourned the matter to the 16th day of June 2023 and ordered that the parties file written Submissions by the 1st day of
June 2023 in relation to Counsel’s objection. These submissions were filed. Justice Sewnarine-Beharry upheld the Attorney General’s submissions.
On the 12th day of June 2023, Her Honour ruled, adding both the Attorney General and EEPGL as parties to the matter. In her ruling, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry accepted the Attorney General’s submissions. The Court held that “given the State’s substantial public, economic and pecuniary interests in the GEP and its benefit to the Guyanese public, I find that the AG has demonstrated a suf icient interest to intervene in his capacity as guardian of the public interest. I find further that the AG, because of his unique position as the Government’s principal legal advisor, may be privy to relevant facts and information (of which the Respondents/Applicants are in no position to speak) and may be able of er a dif erent, useful or practical perspective which this Court ought to take into consideration in determining the issue raised. I find that this of itself counterbalances any delay or prejudice caused to the Respondents/Applicants. I therefore find that the AG ought to be given the opportunity to participate fully in the proceedings and place before the Court, for its consideration, evidence which he believes will vindicate the State’s interest.”
The Attorney General of Guyana, the Honourable Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, MP appeared in person. Shoshanna Lall, Assistant Solicitor General, Patricia Shepherd and Laurel Dundas, State Counsel, appear with him. The Applicants were represented by Seenath Jairam SC, Abiola Wong, Attorney-at-Law, and Edward Luckhoo SC, Andrew Pollard SC and Eleanor Luckhoo appeared for EEPGL.