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May 3, 2011

Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage’s expert assess oil industry

The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage is involved on a nationwide campaign for a referendum on the question of oil drilling and exploration. It is still short of the seventeen thousand signatures required for the poll, but as the deadline approaches, it has solicited the help of two foreign technical experts to assess the oil and petroleum situation in Belize. It is early to tell whether the public will support oil drilling but the Coalition says that they hope that the expert findings to be released before the end of this month will be used to make informed decisions. The first of the two experts who said he is working pro bono, Rick Steiner, a professor in Anchorage Alaska has been in Belize over the past week on a scientific and technical fact finding mission to evaluate the country’s position in terms of spill liability, financial liability, regulations and Environmental Impact Assessments. But according to Steiner, unlike other countries, the industry doesn’t yet have adequate standards for oil production.

Rick Steiner, Professor, Anchorage, Alaska

Rick Steiner

“This is a hugely important decision for Belize; whether to do additional oil and gas exploration development in Belize, where to do it and how to do it. If it is to be done, it has to be done with the highest global standards, best available technology using American Petroleum Institute and American Society for Mechanical Engineering standards. Many other countries require their oil industry to meet those standards as a legal requirement, my understanding so far here is that Belize has no such requirement and so that there are likely insufficient standards here for the existing oil and gas production you have at Spanish Lookout.”

Giovanni Brackett, Chairman, Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage

“We wanted to meet with the management at Big Creek, the port but that hasn’t been as accommodating. We wanted also to meet with B.N.E. since they’re the only oil producing company and that would’ve been an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between the advocates and the oil company. But they made it very clear from couple months ago that would not entertain such activity to have a foreign expert tour their compound.”

Rick Steiner

“If an oil well blows out and  its in an aquatic or wet ecosystem like at Sarstoon Temash you can have large oil spill  in an aquatic system that you simply could not deal with. That’s another important point here that the oil spill contingency plan in process is very new, there is no existing good oil spill plan here and even if there is, when there is, I will certainly help the government and industry put one together. But even when there is, we’ve learned that there is no such thing as an effective oil spill response to an offshore marine oil spill.”

Giovanni Brackett

Giovanni Brackett

“We visited the Rio Bravo Reserve these past couple days, walking the seismic lines that have been done three-four years ago, some by B.N.E., and some by RSM. It was very visible to see that after couple years this vegetation hasn’t grown, that it has led to increase in illegal logging and in some case, the illegal capturing of parrots and the general increase pressures on the reserves. It was the same thing in the Sarstoon Temash Park, which is a RAMSAR site.”

Rick Steiner

“As we flew over the country last couple of days I saw lots of areas that probably would have low environmental sensitivity that could you know be open to oil and gas development., those areas around the large agricultural plots you know down in Stann Creek and such like that and some very flat areas that are non-permeated with water where if you had a major spill it probably wouldn’t  flow so there are some areas which you probably could zone as appropriate with the best available technologies for oil and gas but there are also some areas that should remain sacrosanct  and should not be open to oil development.”

Steiner said that Belize is party to two of the International Marine Pollution Protocol Pollution Protocol which are Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund which covers Belize up to three hundred million U.S. dollars in the case of a massive offshore oil spill. However, Belize isn’t a part of the Supplementary Fund which covers up to over one billion U.S. dollars. Richard Fineberg, an Economist who specializes in Production Sharing Agreements, is expected to arrive in the country this Wednesday. We contacted Kevin Herrera, C.E.O. at CH Belize Energy LP, who said that they have extended the invitation to the executive of the Coalition for a tour of B.N.E.’s facilities but that invitation was turned down. Herrera went on to say that the coalition seemed more interested in bringing a foreign expert, something which they will not accommodate on the grounds that they aren’t sure of the terms of reference of the expert nor have they ever heard of such a request  to entertain a third party expert.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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9 Responses for “Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage’s expert assess oil industry”

  1. Belize Cow says:

    Rick Steiner: We Should be Skeptical

    Indeed, when it comes to Rick Steiner we should be skeptical. I took the time to look up Mr. (not Dr., and no longer professor, his funding was cut and he resigned) Rick Steiner’s history. I wasn’t very impressed. What I found was your textbook sensationalist. I may be wrong but I don’t think you can even call him professor anymore, as it seems as though he resigned from the University of Alaska at Anchorage. Rick Steiner has a history of criticizing the oil industry, in general, without providing feasible solutions or evidence. There is a lot of science in fact that goes into determining certain risk issues and anyone who has been through the rigors of a proper scientific education will be weary of figures like Steiner. It is remarkably easy to say “Big oil industries are wrong and I’m right and they are duping us all”, then wait for a spill and say “See I was right, now you have to believe me.” But where are all the skeptics? Where are the people saying well “why?” or “where is the evidence?” I have to say that the University of Alaska were skeptical and they chose to cut his federal funding. What did Steiner do? Complain to media “I’m fighting for the environment and they don’t like it; therefor, I am right!” Well, no, that doesn’t follow.

    All I’m saying is be weary of Mr. Steiner. Don’t you think that BNE has consulted professionals? Yes, it would be greatly disadvantageous for them not to. Why wouldn’t they allow Rick Steiner on premises? Probably because it’s Rick Steiner, a man with a reputation for complaining in big ways. All I’m saying is have a little faith. I’m sure BNE has consulted leaders in the field, accepted leaders without a history of controversy.


    As if though the Belize barrier reef has not suffered enough, from global warming, pollution, development, and tourism, the annoying Americans keep pushing the GOB to submit to oil and gas exploration development in Belize. Even with their high global standards, and best available technology and Engineering standard, drilling for oil in Belize is not good for the country. The Americans are always ready to destroy everything in their path to get rich and famous (see their history). If your country have oil you are friends of the Americans, and sooner or later they will declare war on you.
    People, vote NO for oil drilling in Belize.

  3. Swamp Dragon says:

    The effects of a spill will be devastating here in Belize. No drill in the wetland and no drill in the sea. Louisiana fisherman sick from the oil up there. They starting to get sick now. No amount of oil worth the loss of Belize and it’s people.

  4. Oscar965 says:

    It is sad to see that out of our 300,000 plus population….so many few of us care about the future of our country. Do we really need oil drilling offshore?(Answer: NO) Will the average Belizean enjoy the benefits? (Answer: NO) Or will it benefit only the oil companies and the politicians? (Answer:YES) If we bring this issue to a referendum then WE THE PEOPLE get to decide not the oil companies and not the politicians…pup or udp ..they are both the same….I want to be able to decide the future of my nation so that is why i want the referendum to take place. Hopefully 17,000 people will share this same view…

  5. NOLA says:

    Expert or no expert, THERE ARE SOME THINGS MONEY CAN’T BUY! and the Belize Barrier Reef is a perfect example. If oil exploration is allowed in Belizean waters we are putting our greatest jewel at risk and once lost cannot be recovered.

    That’s just plain old common sense!

    If the Barrier Reef is lost or damaged the tourism industry will suffer. What will Belize do then? How will the Tourism industry survive?

    The Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism industry needs to wake up and GET INVOLVED. Sign those petitions.


  6. MAGABUAY says:

    Come on all u guys, stop being negative, we gotta see the positives, we have 2 look at in an economic perspective. Belize is a country of many opportunities, including natural resources, in this case it is petroleum. We have think on how the discovery of new petroleum wells can help the devastated Belize economy. Lets be realistic we cannot rely only on tourism, we have to be a working country, we have to promote agriculture and oil drilling so as to increase our country´s revenue!!. We Belizeans need opportunities, but none are present, take example health care and education, we are poorly behind, we cannot sit with our arms close and wait for a miracle!!TO HELL WITH THAT! I say explore, we have to take risks!!!!!

  7. Elgin Martinez says:

    We do not even have Belizeans that are qualified in this field.As a result why are we thinking about drilling.

  8. tidewithbleach says:

    nice shirt Brackett. You brought your A game to the table.

  9. Earl Grey says:


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