With court review looming, concerned Bahamians warn against mobilizing the Stena IceMAX drill ship
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) was put on notice today that its plan to drill an offshore exploratory well will be hit with legal action if the company does not agree to halt all activities pending a court review of its environmental authorization process.
In an update to its investors yesterday, BPC confirmed it is on track to spud its exploratory well within six weeks, with the company indicating that it plans to complete all well activities prior to mid-April 2021.
But oil drilling opponents say they will apply for an injunction that bars the company from starting to drill at the same time as they ask the local court to vet the circumstances under which BPC’s licences were granted, a legal process known as a judicial review.
In the meantime, they urged BPC to cease and desist from its plan to immediately mobilize the drill ship Stena IceMAX, currently in the Canary Islands but set to head for The Bahamas before the end of the month.
According to grassroots coalition Our Islands, Our Future, BPC has now officially been warned that its environmental approvals are being challenged and the company should not insist on launching the IceMAX or taking any other steps towards drilling in defiance of the judicial review process.
“To be clear, we intend to stop BPC from drilling in Bahamian waters,” said Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeeper Bahamas and a member of the coalition steering committee. “We are very encouraged by the huge support, both local and international, that we continue to receive. Over 100 businesses and organizations have joined the Our Islands, Our Future coalition, and 40,000 concerned individuals have signed the change.org petition. The petition numbers are growing every day.
“At the same time, we are disappointed with the lack of dialogue with the Bahamas government and are finding it necessary to ask the courts of law to step in and examine the approvals process. The company has been duly put on notice; any further actions to pursue or accelerate its plans will be undertaken at its own risk.
“The coalition had hoped to avoid legal action, which is why we wrote to The Bahamas’ Prime Minister about our concerns several times but got no response. Now, as the drill ship is about to sail, we have been left with no choice.”
Fellow steering committee member BREEF (Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation) Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert said the group believes there were certain fundamental flaws in the approvals process so far, including a deficient environmental impact assessment (EIA) and a lack of proper consultation at various stages, which means that BPC’s approvals need to be revisited.
She emphasized that the coalition is only asking BPC to respect the legal process in The Bahamas.
“We have asked repeatedly to be consulted on the details of the deal, to see the drilling licenses themselves, for access to more information on BPC’s insurance coverage and the environmental sensitivity maps they have supposedly compiled. It seems appealing to the courts is the only way to achieve some transparency,” said McKinney-Lambert.
“For example, we are being asked to take their word that the company has adequate insurance. What does that even mean in this context? The Deepwater Horizon disaster took place while BP was trying to cap the exploratory well and it cost $65 billion to clean up. We find it highly unlikely that BPC has insurance coverage to that level, and if they do, why won’t they simply come out and provide proof of coverage?”