Buenos Aires, Oct 30 (IANS/EFE) Argentina’s lower house of Congress, controlled by President Cristina Fernandez’s allies, gave final approval Thursday for a new Hydrocarbons Law that was harshly criticised by opposition lawmakers.
The lower house passed the bill with a vote of 130-116 with one abstention after more than 14 hours of debate that began Wednesday and ended early Thursday.
The new legislation, which will replace a 1967 law, seeks to promote foreign investment in exploration and production, according to the government. Argentina urgently needs an inflow of funds to develop its massive Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas deposits and lower its hefty energy-import bill.
To promote investment, the legislation institutes changes that restrict the power of Argentina’s oil-producing provinces, which, under the constitution, own the nation’s oil and gas reserves.
The bill, which was previously passed by the Senate, also lowers the minimum amount that foreign companies must invest to avoid import and foreign-exchange controls from $1 billion to $250 million.
Opposition lawmakers criticized the bill, saying it was tailor-made for state-controlled oil company YPF but detrimental to the interests of Argentina and its oil-producing provinces.
The bill establishes that holders of oil-production concessions must pay a 12 percent royalty to the province where the block is located.