Still the risk persist regarding the project legal and regulatory arquitecture of the project still persists
Angel Castaneda M (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Everyone was very surprised with the news coming from UPME, formally opening the bid rules for interested parties to formulate questions about the process.
It was a surprise basically because the project was literally in someone’s drawer, for about a year and half, which for many was a clear sign that the government had lost interest in the project, and therefore it wasn’t going to be a reality.
For many interested parties in the project, the delay previously noted was certainly bad news because all the compromises that everyone made assuming that the project was required for 2022, were either on hold or dissolved, which may affect the number of people that are interested in the project or the its cost.
Moreover, the project was attacked by a series of public actions in some of the courts in Colombia; the first one was an “acción Popular”, that was directed to affect the project on the basis of morality; the second one was a public action known as an “annulment action” which was directed to declare all the decrees and resolutions that sustain the project as illegal and unconstitutional.
Today however, we have received good news from the Consejo de Estado, the Highest Administrative court in Colombia, that denied the provisional suspension of the process (a kind of injunction to suspend the process while a final decision is taken), solicited by the claimant of the annulment action that is being reviewed in that court.
This is certainly good news for every interested party, because it shows that the claimant´s arguments presented in the annulment action, were not enough to actually implement the injunction solicited by the claimant, and obviously affecting the interests that the claimant might be representing, considering all the actors that would be affected if the project becomes a reality, such as local natural gas producers, that might be financing such quest.
However, is early to claim a victory, no matter the final result of this specific battle; from our review of the annulment action there are two claims that might have some real possibility to become successful; the first one is that there is a contradiction between the law that rules the process, and the decrees and resolutions that were implemented by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, CREG and UPME for the tendering process, which even though might be a formal argument, it will be easy to understand and therefore easy to grant.
The second argument is based upon the difference between a tax and a tariff (the price that a public utility charges its users for the provision of the services), which is certainly something worth reviewing in this specific matter, considering that the final user that is paying for the infrastructure, might not be using it at all, which is not the same as saying that he or she does not need it in the near future, because certainly there is a possibility that the country will go short on natural gas reserves to attend the whole national demand.
However, this also means that the public action that the claimant presented before the Consejo de Estado, it is still a huge risk for the tendering process, and if the regasification infrastructure is effectively granted before the final decision of the Consejo de Estado, and if such Court sides with the claimant argument, then there is a huge problem regarding the financial closing of the project for everyone interested on it.
It might be prudent for the Minister of Mines and Energy to ask the Consejo de Estado for a quick and final decision, to determine whether the general design implemented to facilitate the project was set within the legal parameters, and therefore, to have enough time to change them accordingly in order to implement the project that is certainly a need for Colombia.
Please let us know if you need further information regarding this project or the decisions that the Consejo de Estado made today.