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Feb 22, 2023

D.O.E. Amends E.I.A. Regulations, But Is It Constitutional?

Earlier today, the Department of the Environment released a public notice informing of an amendment to the existing Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. But is the revision of Statutory Instrument Number Twenty-three of 2023 constitutional, considering that changes to the composition of a tribunal tasked with reviewing an appeal by Waterloo are being done halfway through that process? The initial guidelines enshrined in the constitution supported the appointment of the business senator to the tribunal, a Magistrate appointed by the Chief Magistrate, or a Judge nominated by the Chief Justice as the tribunal’s Chair. The other would be a person appointed by the Minister with academic training in an environmental field. However, the effect of the amended S.I. essentially gives the Minister of Sustainable Development the power to choose two representatives – now including an individual representing the private sector. As it stood, the Minister was only allowed to select one member of the tribunal. Furthermore, News Five understands that Senator Kevin Herrera, who represents the private sector, has been removed from the tribunal, presumably because his sibling, Allan Herrera, is Waterloo’s advisor on environmental issues relating to the Port of Belize Expansion Project. The release from the DOE goes on to state, “in ensuring the utmost transparency and accountability to the general populace across Belize and beyond, the Minister has proceeded to amend the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. This amendment is aimed at ensuring integrity and fairness in the appeals process to avoid any potential conflict of interest, whether actual or perceived”. The latest move is considered grossly unfair to the appellant as the tribunal process has already been initiated.

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