ENERGY Minister Stuart Young has condemned the Opposition UNC and its agents for what he described as its completely unwarranted attack on the National Gas Company (NGC) and its president Mark Loquan. Young also said the attack against the NGC and Loquan by the UNC was based on "the recent misinformation and mis-characterisation of information that was leaked in a surreptitious manner."
He said this was not surprising and was expected. In a statement on Saturday, Young said, "At the appropriate time we will provide the accurate information surrounding the decisions taken with respect to Atlantic LNG. However, due to the current stage of discussions and the sensitive negotiations that time is not now."
He said the Government, through his ministry and the NGC, remain in very sensitive and complex negotiations with all of the shareholders of Atlantic LNG. "There are four trains at Atlantic LNG and the Government, via NGC, has shareholdings in Train One (ten per cent) and Train Four (approximately 11 per cent). The Chinese have a ten per cent shareholding in Train One via CIC (a sovereign wealth fund). Shell and BP are the major shareholders in all four trains."
Young said the ongoing negotiations are very complex and deal with Atlantic's future "with the objectives of, securing value for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago via, appropriate returns, and also, the successful continuation of operations in a rapidly changing global energy environment."
At a news conference on Friday in Port of Spain, Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee called for the resignation of Loquan, based on allegations in a Guardian report that NGC could lose $440 million regarding the resumption of operations of Train One. The report also alleged that NGC's board wrote to Finance Minister Colm Imbert seeking indemnity on this issue.
Young reiterated, "I give the assurance that, at the appropriate time, we will provide details with respect to the negotiations surrounding the future of Atlantic LNG and the outcome of such negotiations." Until then, he added, "I condemn the empty and hollow rhetoric of the Opposition and its agents."
Young said under the steady leadership of Loquan and the NGC board, the company has settled many gas supply contracts with both upstream and downstream third parties. "The NGC has also managed to successfully negotiate billions of dollars in claims which came about as a result of, inter alia, gas shortages due to the mismanagement of our gas sector between 2010 and 2015 (under the then UNC-led People's Partnership coalition government)."
He said, "To stay competitive in the global energy sector requires a level of sophistication, stability, respect for confidentiality on certain matters and fortitude."
Young assured the population that the Government "is committed to protecting our future in the energy sector." On Friday, the Prime Minister, at a news conference after a Cabinet retreat in Tobago, said the news report on the negotiations could be misleading, also noting it was a "very complicated, very complex issue", but assured "the primary objective is protecting and preserving the best interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago."