Leading intl environmental group says oil spill is not an “if”, but “when”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Plans to conduct exploratory oil drilling in The Bahamas are not only “irresponsible” but also “reprehensible” given the current global climate crisis, according to global environmental NGO Greenpeace International.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, climate campaigner for the organization Ben Ayliffe said the major concern is not if there will be an oil spill, but when the incident will eventually occur.
Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) is using Stena Drilling’s drillship Stena IceMAX to spud its first well Preservation #1 some 90 miles west of Andros.
As of yesterday, the vessel’s estimated arrival to Grand Bahama was projected to be December 15.
“It’s madness to be drilling in The Bahamas,” Ayliffe said.
“We are living through a climate crisis. This is not something that is limited to faraway places like the Amazon, the Arctic. And The Bahamas has seen Hurricane Dorian very recently and climate change is going to make those kinds of events unfortunately more common.
“The idea that you would then go and drill for even more of the oil that is causing this climate chaos in the first place is just so irresponsible. In this day and age, it’s complete madness to be looking for a new source of oil like this.”
Ayliffe noted that countries like The Bahamas are incredibly vulnerable to oil drilling and possible oil spills, given the risks.
He pointed to the devasting impact the 2010 BP oil spill had on the Gulf of Mexico.
“It is so difficult, technically difficult, to respond to an oil spill, even in heart of the oil drilling industry like the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.
“To do similarly in somewhere like The Bahamas, that doesn’t necessarily have the kind of infrastructure, the capacity to equip a major response that would be needed for a spill, it just feels so incredibly risky.”
Ayliffe insisted that there’s no safe way to drill for oil, calling the suggestion an oxymoron.
“We’ve seen that everywhere the industry goes around the world, that if you drill, you spill,” he continued.
“I think it would be a question of not if an accident happened in The Bahamas but when.”
He insisted that while other countries may not have had challenges with oil exploration, that does not mean there would be a similar outcome in The Bahamas.
“Ultimately, you cannot be drilling for more of the oil that is causing our climate to fry and be serious about talking about being environmentally responsible.”
The government has maintained that it is legally honoring its agreement with BPC to grant the company continuation of its licenses for oil exploration.
BPC CEO Simon Potter and other supporters of the oil exploration project have pushed back against claims from environmental opponents, arguing that Bahamians have a right to know whether there are commercial quantities of oil in the country.
But Ayliffe said while the organization is not suggesting that The Bahamas doesn’t have the right to make decisions about their energy needs, “it’s not as if it’s oil drilling or nothing”.
He noted there has been a global uptake in the use of clean green technologies from marine energy resources and solar power, but it’s a question of the “political will” needed to make it happen.
Ayliffe said the oil industry is very good at “spinning” the benefits that will accrue for allowing it to operate, but those benefits don’t always trickle down.
“There’s just often very, very little proof of that happening. There’s no guarantee that they will find the major oil hit in The Bahamas to justify the vast expense of actually pumping it out of the ground. I would be very careful about big promises of how this could revolutionize the economy.”
He added that there are always alternatives or solutions that can’t be “found at the bottom of an oil well”.
A consortium of more than 80 local and international NGOs is expected to file legal action to seek an injunction against BPC’s plan to drill for a test well and a judicial review of the matter.
The legal effort is being led by Fred Smith, QC, who assured Eyewitness News that those filings will be made ahead of the scheduled drilling start date.
Ayliffe applauded the work of local environmentalists who continue to advocate with groundswell concern and activism on the matter.
Last week, crew members aboard Greenpeace’s iconic Rainbow Warrior lent their support to anti-oil drilling efforts in The Bahamas.
The crew members held up a large sign in front of the Stena IceMAX drillship before it left port from the Canary Islands.