Environmental suite of bills passes Lower House

Environmental suite of bills passes Lower House
Mangrove roots at the Black Sound Cay National Reserve in Abaco (photo credit Bahamas National Trust)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Members of Parliament yesterday passed a compendium of environmental legislation that propose wide-ranging protections and ban single use plastics throughout the country. 

The bills unanimously passed include: The Ministry of Environment Bill, 2019, the Environment Planning and Protection Bill, 2019, the Environment Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019, The Bahamas National Trust (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Bahamas Protected Areas Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Tariff (Amendment No 2.) Bill, 2019.

Opening debate on bills, Environment Minister Romauld Ferriera noted that the cornerstone suite of legislation will seek to protect the country’s natural resources, create a planning regime for the sustainable development of the environment and hold offenders accountable for environmental infractions.

“These bills comprehensively address the need for a positive framework for interaction with our environment,” Ferriera continued.

“They create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship. They provide accountability [and] transparency, where there was none.

“They create clarity, where confusion was once the Modus Operandi.

“They secure pathways for continued international engagement and improved access to funding.

“This suite of legislation indicates to the world that The Bahamas is ready, willing and able to rise to the challenge, meet our international commitments and be a force for good, for the preservation of our global commons; all while sustainably developing our national resources, maintaining environmental integrity and creating economic opportunities for Bahamian citizens and residents alike.”

While the opposition supported the suite of bills, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper raised several recent incidents, criticizing the government’s handling of environmental issues.

Cooper pointed to government’s signing of a $5.5 billion project with Oban Energies for an oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama; the oil spill at Equinor – formally known as Statoil – during the passage of Hurricane Dorian; and the revelation that Carnival cruise ships have been dumping black water in Bahamian waters.

“I am happy to see that some of what I just mentioned with regard to environmental spills and dumping is addressed in these bills,” he said.

“…As we contemplate these new environmental laws, we trust that even these laws will be revisited in the context of the aftermath and the lessons of the most significant natural disaster in our history will not be wasted.”