By Elias Hazou
FOLLOWING a fiery session of the plenum, the House last night passed a law placing new environmental requirements relating, among others, to the operations of Halliburton in Cyprus.
The legislative proposal – authored by Greens MP George Perdikis – passed with 28 votes for (AKEL, DIKO, EDEK and the Greens), while DISY and DIKO MP Athena Kyriakidou abstained.
The bill stipulates that additional environmental studies must be carried out for certain projects, such as the one Halliburton intends to establish in Aradippou.
But for its ardent supporters – such as Perdikis – the law may have come too late. That’s because Aradippou’s municipal council had apparently approved the town-planning permit for Halliburton’ facilities two days earlier, meaning that the new law passed does not apply to its operations. It’s understood Halliburton had applied for the permit several weeks ago.
Ruling DISY holds a majority in the Aradippou municipal council, and at the House, opposition parties accused the ruling party of wielding its influence to nudge the municipality into okaying the town-planning permit on the sly while a new environmental bill was pending before parliament.
The Department of the Environment had already compiled a draft bill with extra regulations, and lawmakers were expecting the government’s item to be submitted. The government got an extension on the understanding that meantime no action would be taken by Aradippou municipality.
The Greens’ Perdikis meanwhile took the department’s draft bill, adapted it and formulated his own legislative proposal.
Amid recriminations on the House floor, tempers flared with DISY leader Averof Neophytou exclaiming: “Would you like them [Halliburton] to pack up and set up shop in Lebanon instead?”
“You can’t change the rules of the game midway, otherwise what foreign company will do business here,” sources close to DISY later told the Mail, arguing that had Perdikis had his way the Halliburton investment might have been scuppered.
One of the world’s largest oilfield services companies, Halliburton intends to set up its base of operations for the east Mediterranean in Cyprus. They provide drilling services and gear for companies prospecting for hydrocarbons.
It’s understood the facilities they intend to build in Aradippou include a factory for the assembly of equipment such as pipelines as well as extensive warehouses, in what will be a multi-million investment.
Previously, an energy analyst had told the Mail that Halliburton expects some 50 new gas wells – worth billions in contracts to them – to be drilled in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming years.