Despite repeated calls from the opposition and environmentalists for the Minnis administration to scrap the Oban Energies deal, founding member of the Free National Movement (FNM) Maurice Moore suggested that push is premature.
While Moore acknowledged the government did not execute the original agreement “carefully enough before they made a communication on it”, he pointed out that the government has admitted its mistake and sought to renegotiate the terms of the project — a multibillion-dollar oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.
“They are looking for something to complain [about],” Moore said.
“Yes, the government made a misstep of it and they admitted it.
“They are correcting it by putting it in the hands of people who know about it and said ‘reevaluate this program; see whether it can work and how it can work; and how it can benefit The Bahamas more than what was proposed in the program that we have set aside’.”
He continued, “They can complain about that, but again that’s a matter that the government has two of its ministers and some persons who are knowledgeable in that area [looking at].
“They are reviewing it and they will eventually put forth their recommendations.
“At that time, whatever the government decides to do, then you can talk about it.
“But now, [they’re] talking about something that we do not know what the professional people will come up with.”
The government appointed its lead negotiation team last month to strike a new deal with Oban.
Those negotiations are expected to begin as early as this month, nearly a year after the government signed the agreement which received considerable pushback.
In March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted his administration made missteps with the deal in its haste to boost Grand Bahama’s economy.
The government has said a new deal would be more beneficial for Bahamians.
The government signed the agreement with Oban on February 10, but the public was not notified at the time.
It held a “ceremonial signing” on February 19 with then Oban Energies Non-Executive Chairman Peter Krieger.
The government signed the agreement without an environmental impact assessment (EIA), an issue heavily lamented by environmentalists.
There was also widespread public outcry over a clause in the agreement that prevented the government from scrapping the deal based on anything in the EIA.
The agreement stated that the government must work with Oban to address any concerns raised in the environmental study.
While the document has yet to be made public, Oban Energies Managing Director of Operations Alexander Grikitis confirmed last month that the company completed the EIA.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes chairs the Cabinet sub-committee and technical advisory group charged with examining the deal.
Foulkes has said the government will not release the EIA before amending the heads of agreement, a move that has been roundly criticized by environmentalists.