NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than 80 international NGOs, businesses and high-profile personalities have announced their full support for a campaign to stop oil drilling in The Bahamas and see a permanent ban enacted on all fossil fuel exploration anywhere in the country.
Grassroots coalition Our Islands, Our Future yesterday sent a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis underscoring the rapidly growing list of regional and global entities that have joined forces with local drilling opponents.
The list includes hugely influential global NGOs like Oceana, Surfrider Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Earthjustice, the Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth, along with many others.
Also signing on is Mission Blue, led by renowned marine biologist, explorer and author Dr. Sylvia Earle.
Earle is a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and was named Time Magazine’s first Hero for the Planet in 1998.
Earlier letters to Minnis outlined the coalition’s concerns about the severe threat posed by offshore oil drilling to the already fragile economy and ecology of The Bahamas.
It also pointed out that an online petition calling for a permanent oil exploration ban had surpassed 40,000 signatures.
However, the coalition said none of the letters received a response.
“It’s clear this issue is giving great concern to organizations all over the world,” said Chris Wilke, global advocacy manager of Waterkeeper Alliance, which strengthens and grows a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water.
“The world is watching, and in the face of global climate change, the world needs this precious resource of community resiliency and biodiversity protected for future generations.”
Wilke noted that more than 80 organizations in 15 countries signed the letter.
The immediate target of the coalition’s campaign is the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) plan to drill offshore exploration wells in a matter of months.
“This poses a critical threat to our world-renowned oceans, reefs and beaches,” said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director of the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF) and a member of the coalition’s steering committee.
“BPC cannot be allowed to move forward with their plans and we need the Bahamas government to understand that the world is watching this situation very closely. It is difficult to exaggerate how out of step with the global trend this is.
“For example, notably fossil fuel-friendly President Trump recently agreed to extend the moratorium on offshore drilling in Florida waters to cover the state’s Atlantic coast, literally right on our doorstep. The prime minister should perhaps ask himself why BPC is so keen on coming here. Could it be that these startup oil companies are finding fewer and fewer communities willing to gambling away their future?
“We could not be more pleased with or appreciated the fantastic level of international support we have been receiving. Hopefully, the government of The Bahamas will take note and come to its senses before it’s too late.”
This year is the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the most catastrophic environmental disaster in the history of offshore drilling which dumped nearly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, fouled 16,000 miles of coastline along five U.S. states, utterly destroyed fisheries and caused an unprecedented level of damage to marine life.
“The Deepwater Horizon rig was an exploratory well, similar to the one that BPC wants to drill here,” said Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeeper Bahamas and a fellow member of the coalition steering committee.
“Any major disaster would totally devastate our tourism, our commercial fishing, diving and marine recreation industries. BPC has not been transparent and it is very unclear — in fact, downright unlikely — that they have anything like the insurance coverage, emergency response or mitigation capabilities to deal with a large-scale spill. When something goes wrong, it will be The Bahamas left holding a toxic bag of unthinkable consequences.”
Ingraham added: “Furthermore, even business-as-usual drilling without a catastrophic spill causes an enormous amount of pollution. When you drill, you spill — it’s as simple as that. So, it is not just enough to stop BPC. We call on the government to cancel all existing licenses immediately, disregard any license renewal proposals and place a permanent ban on all offshore oil drilling.”