Belize Drops Proposal for Offshore Oil Drilling on World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef

Belize Drops Proposal for Offshore Oil Drilling on World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef

Environmental activists in Belize have claimed victory in their fight against possible oil drilling near the world’s second largest barrier reef, just 300 meters off the coast of the tiny Central American nation.

The government of Belize withdrew an appeal on May 26 attempting to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that had banned offshore oil drilling around the country’s barrier reef, called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS). The reef is also popularly known as the Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef among international tourists and locals.

In April 2013, the Supreme Court of Belize ruled that six offshore oil drilling contracts, issued by the government between 2005 and 2007, were illegal because they had not carried out environmental impact assessments.

The court’s ruling judge, Justice Oswell Legall, also found that the recipients of these contracts — including companies Island Oil, Princess Petroleum, and four others — did not demonstrate an ability to contribute the necessary funds, equipment, and technical expertise to drill safely.

Following the 2013 decision, the government of Belize filed an appeal. If the ruling was overturned, these same companies would have legally had access to offshore oil exploration and drilling in 99 percent of Belize’s waters.

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