NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Amid backlash over the government’s decision to renew the exploration licenses for Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to drill offshore, Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira said the decision arose from the government’s legal advice and it was compelled to act in a “legally responsible way”.
When prompted for a response outside the House of Assembly Wednesday, Ferreira said the government extended the licenses as a result of the legal advice it received.
“We were advised to extend the license,” he said.
“This is it. This isn’t a question of renewing the existing licenses under normal circumstances.
“The legal opinion hinges around whether time had continued to flow, whether or not they were interrupting or intervening events that lifespan of the license, for want of a better phrase, and that was the opinion that we sought. That was the opinion that we got.”
Environmentalists expressed disdain at the development this week.
Joseph Darville, chairman of Save The Bays, expressed shock, saying the government previously gave assurances that oil exploration was not the way forward.
He also said it was “disturbing” that the company made the announcement instead of the government.
Darville said the Bahamian people must be given a say, by way of a referendum, on whether the country should drill for oil.
Asked whether the government was minded not to extend the licenses and if it felt forced, the minister acknowledged that there is always a choice, but “governments want to act in legally responsible ways”.
The renewal permits BPC to drill an exploratory well by December 2020.
Ferreira said, “BPC is submitting an environmental impact assessment, which will have to [go through] the processes of having permits issued by the BEST commission.”
The minister was also asked about the way forward after the two-year extension.
He said, “We will wait and see what happens.
“Let’s see what happens.”
He added he is prepared to engage non-government organizations who have expressed an opinion on the issue.