NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is seeking to meet with the government as it advances discussions with Oban Energies to renegotiate the original heads of agreement signed last February for a $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility set for East Grand Bahama.
BNT Executive Director Eric Carey said the environmental watchdog wrote to the government, requesting a meeting to discuss the renegotiation process for a new heads of agreement with Oban, and matters related to the now completed environmental impact assessment (EIA).
“We have noted a lot of discussion and a lot of commentary by both the government and Oban’s principals, but our organization has not yet met with the government or those principals,” he told Eyewitness News Online
“We will have to have internal discussions as an organization and then determine what our next steps are.”
Carey did not reveal what those next steps could be, saying he was unable to comment further at this stage.
“We have written to the government and we await a response from them, and we will determine our next steps based on discussions we have with government and also the internal discussions,” he advised.
The government signed a heads of agreement with Oban in absence of an EIA.
While the document has yet to be made public, Oban Energies Managing Director of Operations Alexander Grikitis confirmed last month that the company completed the environmental study.
Despite calls for the government to make the document public, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who chairs the Cabinet sub-committee and technical advisory group charged with examining the deal, has indicated that the government will not release the EIA until after the renegotiation process.
When asked about this decision, Carey said, “All of that will be wrapped up in our discussions with the government when we get a meeting, and also in our internal discussions, but we don’t have any statement further than that.
The EIA was just one of the controversial elements of the Oban saga.
While the government signed the agreement with Oban on February 10, the public was not notified at the time.
It held a “ceremonial signing” on February 19 with then Oban Energies Non-Executive Chairman Peter Krieger
There was also widespread public outcry over a clause in the agreement that prevented the government from scrapping the deal based on anything in the EIA.
The agreement stated that the government must work with Oban to address any concerns raised in the environmental study.
Last March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted his administration made missteps with the deal in its haste to boost Grand Bahama’s economy.
Attorney Loren Klein, the consultant counsel in the Office of the Attorney General, will lead the renegotiation team with another five other members.
It remains unclear when those talks for a new deal will begin, though Foulkes has suggested a date has been tentatively set.