BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s government on Wednesday criticized a Supreme Court ruling requiring state-controlled oil company YPF to fully disclose the agreement it signed with U.S.-based supermajor Chevron Corp. for the development of the giant Vaca Muerta shale formation.
“What the court has said in this case is madness. What it does is it lays bare information from confidential agreements like those seen in any industrial situation in the world,” Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez told reporters.
The ruling undermines “legal certainty” in Argentina, Fernandez said, predicting that the country will be in a very difficult legal bind when “information is requested from companies that have signed confidentiality agreements and it has to be disclosed.”
He also said there was “clear political intent” in handing down the decision shortly before the Nov. 22 presidential runoff, in which ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli will face off against center-right challenger Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires.
The high court ruled Tuesday that YPF must disclose the terms of its 2013 deal with Chevron to develop two areas of Vaca Muerta located in the southwestern province of Neuquen.
“The imprecise and generic affirmations formulated by YPF SA were not sufficient to hold as proven that the release of the content of the accord might compromise industrial, technical and scientific secrets,” the court concluded in its 3-1 decision.
The ruling came in response to a motion filed by opposition Sen. Hector Ruben Giustiniani after YPF refused to answer his questions about the contract with Chevron, particularly in regard to the potential environmental impact of the project.
Freedom of information is “a fundamental human right” that implies the protection of “access to information under the control of the state,” the judges said.
YPF, which announced in 2011 the discovery of non-conventional oil and natural gas reserves in Vaca Muerta, said Tuesday that it would comply with the Supreme Court ruling.
The agreement between YPF and Chevron called for $1.24 billion in investment in an initial pilot phase and $1.6 billion in the second phase, which is currently under way.
Plans call for spending a total of $16 billion to develop 3 percent of Vaca Muerta.
Argentina holds the world’s second-largest shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which says Vaca Muerta is the South American country’s largest shale gas play.
YPF has been effectively controlled by the Argentine government since May 2012, when Congress approved its expropriation of Spanish oil major Repsol’s 51 percent stake in the energy company.
The firm’s shares are publicly traded, however, and attorneys for the company argued that it was not subject to the same transparency requirements as a government agency.