Oil firms operating in Argentina celebrated a law passed this month to transfer property of hydrocarbons from the nation to provinces, saying that it will foster legal security and investments. But critics say that it will do nothing but atomize control over oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
Ernesto López Anadón, President of the Petroleum and Gas Argentine Institute (IAPG) said that the law "is a huge step" towards clarifying jurisdictions and "a major contribution the legal security in the sector." Talking to MercoPressafter an energy forum he added that the new regulation will also contribute to a better "fine tunning and streamlining" of contract negotiations. "For instance, regarding the reactivation of marginal fields, it will be much easier to negotiate with provinces than with the nation. "Naturally, provinces are much more familiar with their own resources and this should foster oil activity and hence lure new players into the sector." López Anadón said that although so far the leading voice in oil and gas contracts had been that of the nation "provinces have been always highly involved and committed." He added that the new law will mean no difference for companies regarding acquired rights or tax issues. Argentina's Petroleum Chamber Chairman Oscar Vicente said that the new law "will ease talks regarding the extension of concessions, mostly regarding smaller provincial areas." Emilio Apud, a former energy secretary (2001), told MercoPress that the new law is a contribution to federalism. "It is the responsibility of provinces to seek to maximize their own resources." The bill was passed by overwhelming majorities in the Senate and the Lower House, which are controlled by the Victory Front of centre-left Peronist President Néstor Kirchner. It was also backed by the majority of provinces, among them oil producing Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, Mendoza and Salta. The law actually enforces a clause adopted by the 1994 Constitutional reform whose implementation had so far been delayed. Guillermo Hanskel - MercoPress - Bs. Aires