Negotiations slated for January
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government has appointed its lead negotiation team to strike a new deal with Oban Energies, the company that signed a controversial heads of agreement with the government to develop a multibillion-dollar oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who chairs a Cabinet sub-committee and technical advisory group charged with examining the deal, advised yesterday that those negotiations could begin as early as next month, nearly a year after the government signed the agreement which received considerable pushback.
“We are currently in the process of notifying the principals and speaking to the negotiation team to get our terms of reference,” the minister revealed to reporters outside of the Churchill Building.
“I do not want to go beyond that until I can get some specific information as to when we are going to start the renegotiation.
“We have a proposed date for January, but I have not spoken to the principals nor the negotiation team yet, so I do not want to release that information.”
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.
In March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted his administration made missteps with the deal in its haste to boost Grand Bahama’s economy.
After months of pushback, the government announced plans to reexamine the deal, which it said would be more beneficial for Bahamians.
In June, Foulkes said the government would have an amendment heads of agreement in a matter of weeks.
The technical advisory group submitted its report to Cabinet in August, Eyewitness News understands.
Foulkes said yesterday that Cabinet adopted that report “in full”.
The status of the EIA remains unclear.
When asked about the study last month, Foulkes confirmed that Oban completed a portion of the EIA relating to the oil storage facility, but was still conducting an impact assessment exercise for the refinery facility.