SEEKING CLARITY: Oil drilling opponents claim BPC owes govt for license fees; call on company to clarify

SEEKING CLARITY: Oil drilling opponents claim BPC owes govt for license fees; call on company to clarify
Bahamas Petroleum Company's (BPC) oil rig. (FILE PHOTO)

BREEF head: BPC must sort out license fees before applying to renew

But BPC new incoming CEO says oil company has “the right to extend” its licenses

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Oil exploration opponents have called for “clarity” of Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) license fees, while “vehemently” rejecting assertions by its chief executive that the company has a right to renew its licenses.

During an Our Islands, Our Future webinar Wednesday evening on the future of oil drilling in The Bahamas, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director of Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF), said: “We’re looking for clarity on the license fees.

“These license fees seem to still be outstanding. These are fees due to The Bahamas government.”

According to McKinney-Lambert, these fees amount to some $1.25 million a year.

“It seems unreasonable for BPC to be requesting a lease renewal without first settling this,” said McKinney-Lambert.

“They have gone so far as to claim they have a right to renew their license and this is something we vehemently reject. We are hoping that The Bahamas will implement a ban on offshore oil drilling.”

BPC’s incoming chief executive, Eytan Uliel, recently stated during a podcast responding to investors’ queries that it was “our right to extend” the company’s four oil exploration licenses beyond their end-June 2021 expiration.

He confirmed that BPC, which is soon to be renamed as Challenger Energy Group, has submitted the necessary documentation to the government to start the renewal process.

He noted: “It’s not so much an application, because we have the right to… It’s our right to extend it. We have submitted all the paperwork required. It was required three months before June 30. That’s now been submitted to and there’s a process we go through in terms of renewal, but that’s all in train.”

The company has undertaken a “reset” inclusive of a name change as well as changes to its board of directors and upper management, a few months after its exploratory well in Bahamian waters failed to produce oil in any commercial quantity.

Simon Potter, the company’s CEO since 2011, will step down on May 20, but will remain on the board of the company in the capacity of non-executive director and provide ongoing support to BPC’s executive team.

McKinney-Lambert argued that aside from the potential for a massive spill, “there is also the normal daily pollution that comes from offshore oil drilling”.

She added: “We’re really not in a position to deal with that.”

She noted that Florida and much of the Atlantic Coast have already banned offshore oil drilling in their waters.

Chris Wilke, global advocacy manager, Waterkeeper Alliance, stated: “This oil that they are searching for is not for The Bahamas and will not be refined in The Bahamas, or become part of The Bahamas economy. It will go to a refinery in the US and become a part of global petroleum market.

“This is not about energy security. This is about stopping a very dangerous project that [will] forever change The Bahamas.”