By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
DRAFT legislation containing the necessary regulatory framework for oil exploration in the Bahamas could be before Cabinet with in the next 30 days, the Minister for the Environment said yesterday.
“I think that those regulations will probably be before Cabinet, I would say, within the next 30 days,” added Kenred Dorsett.
“We have received a preliminary draft from the Attorney General’s Office, which my office is now in the process of vetting and making some changes to. I think we should be in a position to put that before our Cabinet colleagues, so we could then have consultation on the draft regulations leading probably into the Budget cycle.”
Mr Dorsett added: “I certainly think that heading into that cycle we should be able to talk definitively about the proposed regime, and so for me I’m certainly pleased because for months I have been talking about the draft regulatory environment being out in place.
“We now have a draft that’s in circulation and so I should be able to speak in a few weeks about that, and we will begin the consultation process with stakeholders.”
The Government announced back in March that it would allow exploratory oil drilling to determine whether there are commercial quantities of oil in the Bahamas prior to any referendum. Mr Dorsett at the time announced it was unlikely that there would be any referendum on oil exploration in the Bahamas prior to the 2015 second half.
If commercial quantities of oil are discovered in the Bahamas, the Government has said it would engage the Bahamian people in an extensive public information programme to ensure all facts were made available before a national referendum. The Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has been planning to drill for oil once the Government gives the go-ahead.
Regarding the issue of establishing a national sovereign wealth trust if commercially viable amounts of oil were found in Bahamian waters, Mr Dorsett said: “I think the notion of a sovereign trust is not something that is new; it’s been bandied around by many groupings.
“I think that when we are in a position to speak specifically to the changes within the Petroleum Act and the accompanying regulations, I will have discussions with groups such as church, other interested Bahamians and the public at large about that regime.”