Oban deal could be cancelled pending EIA

Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama, Iram Lewis.

Government will pull out of the Oban Energies deal if it is not satisfied with the project, according to one parliamentary representative who said he is still awaiting the results of an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama Iram Lewis said he is “satisfied” with the level of information disseminated by Oban Energies but, he is “waiting to see” the results of the EIA before he fully commits to the project.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Lewis said, the proposed $5.5 billion oil refinery for East Grand Bahama is a “step in the right direction” and if done properly, “could get the zeal back” in the nation’s second city.

“So far I am satisfied with the information. There have been a lot of emotional outbursts, it has been politicized to an extent and a bit over the top. I’m patiently watching it unfold,” Lewis said.

“I listened to the prime minister intently, he did say he made some missteps – missteps that should not have happened but again, the intention is to get Grand Bahama going and in our zeal to get the economy turning, there may have been one or two missteps but, we tend to draw back a bit, correct those missteps and moving forward, at the end of the day I want the Bahamian people to be reassured that it is being done in their best interest.

“If we see any danger that is going to disrupt the Grand Bahama natural ecosystem, if it’s not going to be properly contained, properly managed, my government is responsible and we will do the right thing. But we have to give it a chance and give the developers a chance, in light of the fact we’ve already signed the heads of agreement to produce what we asked them to produce. And if they don’t do it to our satisfaction, then we have recourse.”

Lewis said ultimately, if the government is not satisfied with the project, it will pull out of the deal.

“I will not panic until I see it comes to the point where hard questions are asked with respect to potential environmental disasters and they are not answered,” he said.

“So I am hopeful that more positive will be realized from this, all of the necessary groundwork will be done and if the government is not satisfied if the developer doesn’t produce what the government is asking for, the government have all rights to pull out and the land will be back in the inventory of the Bahamian people.”

On Tuesday, Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Executive Director Eric Carey told Eyewitness News his organization has not been involved in the ongoing environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the oil refinery and storage facility.

He said the BNT is still waiting to meet with the relevant parties to discuss the potential impact the proposed facility could have on the local environment.

In his wrap up of the mid-year budget communication in Parliament last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said, while government was well intentioned to create jobs and economic growth for the nation’s struggling second city, some things happened during the processing of the Oban Energies deal that should not have taken place. He admitted that his administration made “missteps” and mistakes.