Attorney General Carl Bethel said Monday that government has the ability to veto the controversial Oban Energies deal to construct a $5.5-billion-dollar oil refinery and storage facility project in East Grand Bahama.
Leading debate on the mid-year budget in the Senate, Bethel reiterated statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest and Central Grand Bahama MP Iram Lewis, who both confirmed that government has the power to stop the project if it is not environmentally sound.
Bethel also told the upper chamber that government will have the right to sue the company for any damages. He added that allegations that Oban Energies would only be fined up to $3.5 million for any adverse environmental impact, as a consequence of the project, is untrue.
“Nowhere in the agreement does it limit the government to sue for any damages or for the cost… when you sue for environmental penalties, the court awards damages,” Bethel said.
“Nowhere where does the heads of agreement (HOA) seek to restrict or limit the government’s right or gives restrictions for a class action lawsuit of group who may say we have suffered as a result.”
According to Bethel, daily fines of $5,000 to $10,000 are simply administrative.
He added that “before a shovel turns a piece of ground”, if government determines that it is not safe, it will not proceed.
Bethel also addressed the issue of crown land associated with the project and took a jab at the former administration for leasing land for another development for much less. He further clarified that the 690 acres of land has been leased to Oban Energies.
“The land is being leased or rented to the developer for $1,700.00 per acre,” he said.
“It is not being sold and there is no agreement to sell that land to the developer… the former government very recently leased vast areas of seabed Crown Land to a foreign developer for $1,000.00 per acre.
“The facts are the facts, we rented for peanuts, the former administration rented for soy beans.”
Bethel said the project also highlighted the archaic procedures within the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA), which he said are antiquated and are now being addressed.