Environmentalists ramp up resistance to oil drilling

Environmentalists ramp up resistance to oil drilling
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)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) continues preparations to drill an exploratory well in The Bahamas this month, environmental activists ramped up their campaigns against the project over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, scores of demonstrators parked their vehicles alongside Blake Road and held up banners and placards to spread awareness on the risks associated with offshore drilling and the need to protect Bahamian waters, and encouraging Bahamians to band together to stop BPC.

ReEarth President Sam Duncombe, who organized the demonstration, said it only takes “one person, to do one thing wrong, and everything goes”.

“When they’re actually drilling, there is going to be a lot of debris, a lot of sedimentation all around the drill site that is obviously going to affect coral, and affect fish…” she said.

“And it’s an industry that most countries are looking to try and get out of, and we’re rushing blindly ahead…”

She added: “There is no reason on God’s great earth why we should not be using wind and solar energy.”

Demonstrators hold up a banner against oil drilling in The Bahamas on Saturday, December 19, 2020. (FILE PHOTO)

Margo Blackwell, who attended the protest with her four-year-old grandson, said: “We’re here because it’s a no-brainer.

“We cannot afford our islands, our country and the world to be disappearing under the ocean.

“And why would we choose or agree to an industry that will contribute to that?

“That’s the question that I have. It’s just a no-brainer for me.

“Furthermore, we already know we’ve stockpiled enough oil in the planet for a couple of decades.

“Let’s stop. Let’s cool this place off a little bit, so that the sea level stops rising.

“Furthermore, we have to stop being disingenuous about methane.

“Methane is 98 percent of LNG, 22 percent worse than carbon and we are just fooling [ourselves] about a clean energy.

“Just because you nasty the world and you don’t see it in your backyard, like the grey oil, does not make it okay.”

Her grandson told Eyewitness News he was against oil drilling “so the animals do not get killed”.

Responding to the prime minister’s statement that the government’s hands were tied, Blackwell added: “Imagine the prime minister saying it is a deal we cannot change. How does that work?”

Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said it is not his dream to drill for oil in the territorial waters of The Bahamas, insisting he remained “totally against” the spud of an exploratory well set to begin next week.

A demonstrator protests against Bahamas Petroleum Company’s plan to drill an exploratory well in this Saturday, December 19, 2020 photo. (FILE PHOTO)

He asserted the government would have backed out of the deal with BPC “if we could have gotten out of it”.

But Blackwell said while she understands some deals may have bound the government to move ahead, the agreements that led to the licensing need to be reviewed.

Human Rights Bahamas President Stephanie St Fleur said she demonstrated against oil drilling in The Bahamas to “save tourism”.

“As an ambassador of this country for the past 25-plus years in the tourism industry, we are known for our sun, sand and sea, so we have to protect that.

“I am definitely against the oil.”

A petition against oil drilling in The Bahamas has garnered over 76,000 signatories.

The online petition on Change.org, titled “Bahamas: We must stop oil drilling before Christmas”, was launched by Our Islands, Our Future, a grassroots coalition opposing BPC.

Another demonstrator said: “This is important for our ocean and for us, and for the animals, so we don’t have them being killed, really.”

BPC is using Stena Drilling’s drillship Stena IceMAX to spud its first well Preservation #1 some 90 miles west of Andros.

The vessel arrived in Bahamian waters and anchored off Grand Bahama last week.

Environmental groups Waterkeeper Bahamas Limited and Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay have filed an application to bring judicial review proceedings against the decision to approve exploratory oil drilling in the Supreme Court.

BPC Chief Executive Officer Simon Potter said the company will “vigorously oppose” the application that he called “entirely without legal basis or merit”.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.