NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Another petition has been launched in efforts to stop offshore drilling in The Bahamas, as the second oil exploration period for the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has been extended by the government due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest petition, created by international organization Only One, calls on the global community to stand with young Bahamian leaders and urge Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to stop offshore oil drilling in the country.
“Not only could a spill wreck marine habitats and the Bahamian economy, but it could also reach the United States, wreaking havoc on shorelines in both countries and tying The Bahamas up in a costly cleanup,” the petition reads.
BPC indicated earlier this week that it has received formal notification from the government of a further extension of the second exploration period of BPC’s licenses, from mid-April 2021 to the end of June 2021, reflective of the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 force majeure.
The company confirmed that it is on track to spud its exploratory well within six weeks, with the company indicating that it plans to complete all well activities prior to mid-April 2021.
Stena Drilling’s Stena ICEMax drillship is preparing to set sail soon to The Bahamas to spud the well.
The company said that the drillship had completed all necessary vessel and equipment inspections, and is scheduled to leave the dock in the Canary Islands before the end of this month.
The coalition Our Islands, Our Future — a group of over 100 businesses and organizations — has warned BPC that its environmental approvals are being challenged and urged the company to stand down its launch of the IceMAX or take any other steps towards drilling in defiance of the judicial review process.
A change.org petition launched by the group has garnered more than 43,000 signatures out of its goal of 50,000.
James Smith, one of BPC’s non-executive directors, was reported as saying in Tribune recently that the resistance from environmentalists is “preposterous”, insisting that the government has a right to determine whether oil exists that could benefit the country.
Smith also opined in the article that there have been tankers previously moving throughout the country that have posed a greater risk of an oil spill than BPC’s action.
However, in a statement responding to Smith yesterday, Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville accused him of being “shockingly uninformed”.
“While Save The Bays certainly opposes the transportation of petrochemicals through our waters, the argument that since we already face some level of danger, we might as well go ahead and increase it exponentially, is ridiculous on the face of it,” Darville said.
“The truth is that there is no such thing as safe oil drilling and we have too much to lose in this country to bet everything on a roll of the dice.
“Our economy is totally dependent upon industries derived from the beauty and abundance of our fragile marine environment.
“Nothing about the BPC deal suggests that it will even come close to providing us with an alternative — certainly not with oil prices crashing and the world moving further away from fossil fuels by the day.
“Certainly not in a country that is among the most vulnerable on the planet to the ravages of climate change, which the oil industry is largely responsible for.”
Darville noted that Smith should “speak next time as a Bahamian first, and a shareholder in a foreign for-profit oil company second”.