No support for oil drilling in Bahamian waters, says two Cabinet ministers

No support for oil drilling in Bahamian waters, says two Cabinet ministers
(FILE PHOTO)

Social services minister says “maybe” to drilling on land

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell said yesterday that while he does not support oil drilling in Bahamian waters, he would support oil drilling on land.

Campbell was responding to questions from reporters outside Parliament when asked about his position on oil drilling in the country.

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. The ship entered Bahamian waters earlier this week.

Campbell noted that the amendments to the fisheries regulations show the government’s commitment to its natural resources.

“I’m personally concerned about anything that is likely or has the possibility of having an adverse effect on that,” he said.

“So, to that end, If I were to support any drilling, it wouldn’t be in our waters.

“It would be preferably on land where it is less likely if something goes wrong to cause any catastrophic effects on our fisheries.”

He said while there is no support for oil drilling in Bahamian waters, the Minnis administration finds itself “bound in its commitments and they are obliged to respect that”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said he doesn’t support any kind of drilling in the waters of The Bahamas, noting that the Fisheries Bill, 2020, is a nexus to the issue.

“Can you imagine an accident of some kind in Bahamian waters which depends largely upon our tourism, upon our marine resources, fisheries products and the like, something like the Deepwater Horizon incident that occurred?

“That would totally decimate our way of life — no support for it.”

Henfield also echoed the government’s message that they simply could not get out of the deal.

“They looked at it; there’s nothing we can do at the moment but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop looking,” he said.

On the sidelines of a Crown Land grant ceremony on Abaco on Friday, Minnis suggested he would have backed out of the deal with BPC “if we could have gotten out of it”.

BPC was initially awarded five licenses by the PLP Christie administration more than a decade ago in 2006.

Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis has claimed that the deal was reworked between 2007 and 2012 under the FNM administration.

In April of this year, the government extended the validity of BPC’s licenses to December; then in August it renewed BPC’s licenses to April 2021, and in November it re-extended that validity to June 2021.

The deal has attracted local and international attention, with environmentalists calling for the oil drilling to be stopped.

Environmental groups Waterkeeper Bahamas Limited and Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay have filed an application to bring judicial review proceedings against the decision to approve exploratory oil drilling, a move which BPC CEO Simon Potter dismissed as “without merit”.

The Parliament Select Committee on Natural Resources has been tasked with reviewing and reporting on a number of resources in the country and their value.

The committee is chaired by Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes and includes Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Centreville MP Reece Chipman and South and Central Andros MP Picewell Forbes.

Foulkes said the committee has already identified 25 different resources in the country thus far, which include oil and aragonite.

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