GB $5.5 billion project sparks environmental concerns

Secretary to the Cabinet Camille Johnson (center), on behalf of the Bahamas government, and Peter Krieger (right) of Oban Energies, at the Office of the Prime Minister February 19. Krieger is accused of forging OBAN Energies President Satpal Dhunna's signature on the heads of agreement shown. (BIS PHOTO/PETER RAMSAY)

Environmental concerns over the $5.5 billion project earmarked for east Grand Bahama are beginning to mount as the government signed a Heads of Agreement with Oban Energies today to establish an oil refinery and storage facility without an environmental impact assessment in place.

Both sides however, assured that the project will be environmentally sustainable and safe.

Oban’s Non-Executive Chairman, Peter Krieger, explained that technology has made the process more advanced and environmentally friendly.

“The technology that is available today has made for a more efficient and cleaner way,” said Krieger. “We are also putting in highly advanced monitoring systems and we are also careful about strategic location to ensure that it was not around surrounding communities as well.”

The environmental study, according to Krieger, is expected to be completed within 45 days. State Minister for Grand Bahama, Kwasi Thompson, reasoned that the agreement is being signed as a measure to remove some of the hurdles international companies would generally face trying to conduct business in The Bahamas.

“The next important is the environmental study,” said Thompson. “The government has been focused on removing the stumbling blocks and improve the ease of doing business. It is important that we create an atmosphere where businesses can thrive.

“The PM has mandated the revitalization and prioritized the redevelopment of Grand Bahama. Typically, the study would be after the approvals but he conversation with government has been positive. We decided to take the first step forward. We wanted to be proactive and get ahead of the curve as much as possible.”

Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon Hubert Minnis, assured that although this project is expected to be the shot in the arm that Grand Bahama needs financially, protecting the environment remains a priority.

He said, “Today’s signing also paves the way for the important environmental impact process in an environmentally safe and sustainable manner.”

The first phase of the project includes four million barrels of crude oil storage, a harbor, deep-sea loading dock and the 50,000 barrel-per-day refinery. Details of the Heads of Agreement are expected to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.