Save the Bays wants Oban to be “transparent” in 2019

Joe Darville.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville on Sunday lambasted Oban Energies, calling for 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, to be transparent in 2019.

“With much consternation, we are learning that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed Oban Industries has been completed, but will not at this time be made public for scrutiny,” outlined a statement issued yesterday from Darville.

“This, in itself sounds most fishy.

“Even an idiot, without the least understanding about our marine ecosystems, would realize that even the minimum incursion for establishing an oil refinery, storage facilities and mega ships birthing, even with the most sophisticated and modern machinery, would wreak havoc on some five ecosystems comprising the proposed areas.

“Presently, those areas are home to a multitude of  varieties of sea life; and will all be wiped out with the very first application of dredging machinery.”

Darville asked why was the Bahamian government entertaining any discussions related to dredging activity when worldwide, he said, “there is a dramatic departure from digging into the belly, bosom and breasts of Mother Earth to bring up outdated and damaging sources of energy.”

Darville said The Bahamas should utilize its available natural resources, not only to obtain energy for consumption but to also be in a position to supply it to other entities in the region.

“If we are in the very least concerned about leaving an environmentally sound and safe country for future generations, we must cease forthwith from selling their birthright for the proverbial pot of porridge,” Darville said.

The Save the Bays Chairman believes that it would take one accident, explosion or oil spill to further destroy the area, as well as the entire extent of the south shore of Grand Bahama.

“The putrid smells from the refineries will forever create health problems, resulting in deaths across the entire island,” Darville claimed.

“Finally, why are we venturing into the destruction of our natural protections against ever increasing and dramatic climate change effects by damaging or destroying the very first barriers against storms and rising seas?

“We tout the serious consequences on small island nations at the United Nations, yet at the same time we are inviting entities to come in and obliterate protections that they cannot impinge upon in other places.

“Greed and avarice bring these entities to our shores and we fall prey to their dangling trinkets and magnified false promises of great wealth.

“It simply must stop,” the Save the Bays release concluded.

Earlier this month, the government appointed its lead negotiation team to strike a new deal with Oban Energies.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who chairs a Cabinet sub-committee and technical advisory group charged with examining the deal, told Eyewitness News Online that these negotiations could begin as early as next month (January), nearly a year after the government signed the agreement which received considerable pushback.

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 a 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 amended heads of agreement in a matter of weeks.

The technical advisory group submitted its report to Cabinet in August, Eyewitness News Online understands.

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.