Oil and Gas Law Conference looks at sector’s use of local content

The Energy Conference staged annually by The Energy Chamber enjoys a prestigious position on the roster of local business conferences, but Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, believes that a “law space” is still needed to discuss key issues about oil, gas and energy.

She says last week’s Second Oil and Gas Law Conference at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre was testimony to the abiding faith of the faculty in the oil and gas sector in this country and the region. Antoine said just last year the faculty was worrying whether the conference would lose “some of its buzz” but this year it was “re-energised not to mention bpTT’s recent gas finds in this country.” She added that while the faculty fully supports the need for diversification, it believes that the oil and gas sector remains a key industry in the country and the region and decided to continue staging the conference. Day One of the two-day conference was themed Exploring the legal framework for Oil and Gas Law, while the second day focused on The Trinidad Experience: Setting the Context and Lessons Learnt.

She said when the first conference was held three years ago, it was because of the faculty’s recognition that the oil and gas and energy sector is a deeply significant one and the faculty needed to be at the forefront of developing its jurisprudence and scholarship. She said despite the short time since that first conference, it had grown, and in addition to an impressive roster of participants from this country it had also attracted participation regionally as well as internationally. She said the first Oil and Gas Conference was a resounding success and confirmed the view that a law space to discuss key issues about oil, gas and energy is sorely needed in the region. “What better institution than the University of the West Indies, the thought leader in the region, and primary research and scholarship engine to initiate and guide this.” In addition, she said recent oil and gas discoveries in the region had seen several territories trying to develop their own oil and gas industries, with Guyana being the most significant. The UWI Law faculty believed it had an obligation to offer intellectual leadership to these efforts and equally that the conference should pay “some attention to helping to build the capacity of Guyana’s sector,” a view she said was happily shared by the faculty’s stakeholders. She said the fact that the conference chairman, Alicia Elias-Roberts is Guyanese, seemed to suggest that “all of the pieces were coming together.” She said the focus of the second conference, held from June 8-9, was on local content in the oil and gas sector and examined the extent to which the sector was making use of local labour, goods and services. “It is essential to project the role of local content within the broader socio-economic goals of the country. The government must seek to create value beyond the petroleum sector itself and must access resources and capability.

A comprehensive understanding of the role and principles of this local content is therefore vital.” The conference also looked at the good governance issues in management of energy resources which she said were always important: issues such as preventing and curbing corruption and the “particular weaknesses” of emerging economies where this was concerned. According to Antoine, the issue was centered around the need to develop a “technocratic management elite” in an emerging economy which would be independent from political influence. A team that would be able to manage the oil and gas resources for the nation, as opposed to a political elite operating in collusion with global energy producers to further their own interests at the expense of the society they are supposed to serve. She pointed to Brazil as an example. She said the conference would provide lessons for non-lawyers, adding, “Of course I am not suggesting that lawyers don’t need to know about corruption and the like or do not act in their own self-interest, but we are inclusive – it is multi-disciplinary.” The conference also explored the role of environmental accounting and regulations in shale gas exploration.

The conference has been attracting increasing interest from foreign universities, international organisations and many top law firms in the region. There was a delegation from Coventry University in the United Kingdom, including some of the top lecturers in the university’s Law faculty as well as some students. Antoine said the UWI Faculty of Law has a Memorandum of Understanding with Coventry University. Read more

Source: News Day (Trinidad & Tobago)