The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) said Monday that under no circumstances will it support the proposed Oban Energies project for Grand Bahama.
In a statement issued yesterday, BNT said the proposed location for the refinery is in close proximity to three national parks – The Lucayan National Park, the East Grand Bahama National Park, and the North Shore – The Gap National Park. “The BNT has asked the government to provide the exact location of the site and to see the full Heads of Agreement. We have also asked for the opportunity to weigh in on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before completion,” the statement said.
Notwithstanding the results of the EIA, the BNT said, even if there are local project impacts that the Bahamas Environment and Science and Technology (BEST) Commissions and the Government might deem acceptable if mitigated, it could not envisage any scenario where BNT could support the project.
The BNT is mandated to manage the national park system and also to act as an advisor on environmental issues. The organization says right now without the relevant information, it cannot fully operate in its role.
“BNT is sensitive to the need to create jobs, especially considering Grand Bahama’s depressed economy. It is absolutely crucial, however, that this is not at the expense of the Island’s (and by extension, the country’s) most important asset, the natural environment. BNT is hopeful therefore that if the assessed impact of this project is determined to be unacceptable, that the Government does have an escape clause to allow us to protect the environment (contrary to what has been reported in the press).”
According to the organization, this facility advances the expansion of fossil fuels, one of the acknowledged greatest contributors to climate change. The extremely high risk that oil refineries in particular present in terms of air, aquatic, and soil pollution and their impact on flora, fauna, sealife, and local communities is extremely widely documented.
“Indeed, it is primarily environmental and safety concerns that has meant that no new refineries have been built in the United States since the 1970s (albeit existing refineries have been expanded).”
There’s also the concern that the refinery and storage facility would be built in an area well known to be highly susceptible to hurricanes.
“One only has to look back as recently as August 2017 at the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the oil refineries and chemical plants in Texas. The Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet with respect to the potential impacts of climate change. This major fossil fuel facility would quite literally increase this risk and would mean that The Bahamas would be contributing to our own demise.”
BNT said the vast majority of Grand Bahama’s natural environment, especially East Grand Bahama, is still very much intact. As such, any development or industry needs to be carefully planned and monitored for the long-term benefit of the people, and natural environment of Grand Bahama, the BNT said.