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Jul 17, 2015

Arguments in B.T.I.A./NCL Suit Concludes in Supreme Court

Eamon Courtenay

The case against Harvest Caye, a tourism development project created by Norwegian Cruise Lines, concluded in the courtroom of Justice Courtney Abel today with closing arguments. The Belize Tourism Industry Association is disputing the decisions of the Department of the Environment and the National Environmental Appraisal Committee.  Both agencies sanctioned an Environmental Impact Assessment for the commencement of the project without having first made sure that the terms of reference had been followed or that there was sufficient opportunity for the public to properly consult, comment on and review the EIA.  According to Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, who is representing NCL, the exercise is purely academic.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for NCL

“At this stage I think it’s important to remember that the Belize Island Holdings is an interested party and not a defendant.  Essentially the allegation by the BTIA is that the Department of the Environment and the NEAC did not comply with a very discrete provision of the regulations that there was a second publication that should have been given and that it didn‘t have in it some details.  Our position to the court is that first of all when you read the regulations it’s not required and secondly we say to the court that there was a publication, a second publication and no member of the public said that they wanted to make any comments, any criticisms etc.  You will recall that there was in fact a public consultation where approximately five hundred people were present and they had a lot to say and as a result of that, constructive criticisms were given and amendments were made.  The NEAC which is the expert body said that additional information was required.  That additional information was supplied and then they considered it and decided that, one, they would approve the EIA and secondly, that there was no need for a public hearing thereafter and so we are asking the court first of all, to give respect to the decision of the NEAC because they are the experts and that a requirement now to publish a notice for a project that’s eighty percent done would serve no useful purpose.  So that, in essence, is the case for the client.”

 

Reporter

“What are the claimants seeking in terms of relief?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Again, that‘s interesting.  They are saying they want a declaration.  A declaration, as you know, is the court saying something, it is not an order for you to do anything.  And they want a declaration that the notice that was published in February 2014 did not have in it certain details, like it did not have the name of my client even though it said Harvest Caye.  Now they want a declaration that it was published but it was not in two newspapers in two consecutive weeks.  It was in one newspaper for about ten days and that therefore the decision was bad.  Now, we have pointed out to the court that the way they have brought their claim that cannot result because they have not challenged the Environmental Compliance Plan which is the operative document.  It is in that context that we say this entire case is academic.  This is a decision that is fifteen months old that they are now seeking to say to the courts that was not done in strict compliance of the law.  Life has moved on.”

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