Coalition renews call for permanent ban on oil drilling, articulates path forward

Coalition renews call for permanent ban on oil drilling, articulates path forward
Scores of demonstrators parked their vehicles alongside Blake Road and held up banners and placards against oil drilling in The Bahamas on Saturday, December 19, 2020. (FILE PHOTO)

Advocates mark one-year anniversary of license expiration 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — In a published document on its website detailing a pathway forward, the Our Islands Our Future coalition marked the one-year anniversary of the expiration of oil drilling licences in The Bahamas, and renewed its public call for a permanent ban on oil drilling. 

In its paper, Our Islands Our Future articulated a summary of its analysis of a legislative and administrative path forward to a full country-wide ban on oil drilling. The coalition offered to share additional analysis and findings with the government to begin a path forward in the best interest of all Bahamians. 

The strategy outlined by the coalition is for an immediate moratorium on all oil drilling by a declaration of ministerial policy, followed by a Parliamentary Act to codify the policy into law, making the policy permanent, citing similar moves in other countries such as New Zealand, Costa Rica, Greenland, Wales and elsewhere. Florida also has a moratorium on offshore oil drilling in order to protect its valuable tourism and fishing industries. 

In July 2021, The Bahamas Government, under then Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, denied consideration of a bid for renewal of the controversial expiring oil drilling licenses held by the Challenger Energy Group (CEG – formerly BPC).

At the time the Government announced it was refusing to consider the renewal of the drilling licenses due to the non-payment of fees owed to The Bahamas by the company. Today, marking the one-year anniversary after oil licenses expired, the groups note that The Bahamas has yet to send a message that this country is closed for drilling, or that the 2021 applications for licenses to CEG are permanently denied, a lack of action which puts Bahamians and their environment at risk. 

The groups furthered that Prime Minister Philip Davis has made several statements in response to media questions on this matter. On his return from the COP26 climate conference in Scotland last November, the Prime Minister said he was “not minded” to allow oil drilling in Bahamian waters.

In April this year, Davis announced his government was pursuing monetizing the country’s blue carbon credits and said, “we think that will be sufficiently monetized for us to not even look at oil drilling”.

The Carbon Credit Trading Bill 2022 was tabled on July 6, and the parliamentary debate began this week.

The Our Islands, Our Future coalition lauded these statements and congratulated the Prime Minister at the time, but emphasized that Bahmanians are still vulnerable until legislation and government policy establish a permanent ban on oil drilling, fully divesting The Bahamas from fossil fuel production. 

Scores of demonstrators parked their vehicles alongside Blake Road and held up banners and placards against oil drilling in The Bahamas on Saturday, December 19, 2020. (FILE PHOTO)

“Every additional day that goes by without a ban places us at risk for when the next drilling proposal arrives at our doorstep,” said Rashema Ingraham, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Bahamas.

“We do not have the infrastructure to respond to a major spill, nor the ability to oversee a drilling effort, and we continue to be highly vulnerable to climate change.”

The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published in April 2022 called for major transitions in the energy sector – a substantial reduction in fossil fuels use, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels in order to limit global warming to manageable levels for both humanity and ecosystems.

The coalition emphasizes that any possible offshore drilling approvals, with the prospect of unleashing a new source of crude oil, will compromise the future well-being, not only of The Bahamas, but for the planet as a whole.

“The Bahamas should be the country powered by the sun,” said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert of BREEF.

“We can use our resources in ways that do not jeopardize our well-being, or who we are as a low-lying archipelago. This isn’t the time to embrace dirty fuels that jeopardize our oceans and risk our way of life. The Bahamas is much better off embracing a clean energy future.”

“Climate change math compels us all to action,” said Chris Wilke, Waterkeeper Alliance.

“We have a short time in which to act, to bring down global greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late, and we have an opportunity to show the world how it’s done: that The Bahamas is not putting its treasured environment and the global climate up for sale to investors.”

As the islands still recover from Hurricane Dorian, a climate-fueled superstorm, the groups emphasize that The  Bahamas’ vulnerability to climate change means we must help lead the world in securing a sustainable future by permanently banning oil drilling in our waters, for either exploration or exploitation and that there is a compelling need for an explicit declaration from this administration and Parliament.