Exploratory oil drilling ahead of referendum


Tribune Staff Reporter


IN A shock move, the Christie administration has broken its promises on oil drilling in Bahamian waters, announcing yesterday that it will allow exploration wells to be sunk ahead of a referendum.


Kenred Dorsett

According to a statement released by Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, the government has determined that “we need to find out first, through exploration drilling, whether we do indeed have oil in commercially viable quantities.”

This is in direct contrast to his position less than four months ago, when Mr Dorsett assured this newspaper that no form of drilling would take place ahead of the referendum, planned for sometime before July this year.

In September of last year, Prime Minister Perry Christie said: “We are continuing to talk to those people who are applicants, but as I have indicated before, oil drilling will only take place if the Bahamian people approve it through a referendum”.

Asked in November by The Tribune Business if the government might allow an exploratory well to be dug pre-referendum, Mr Dorsett replied: “No. I think that in our discussions with the Bahamas Petroleum Company it’s been on the basis that the referendum will take place prior to that.”

Mr Dorsett also confirmed in yesterday’s press statement that it is now unlikely that a referendum will take place before the second half of 2015, instead of later this year.

Though the government originally intended to make these announcement at a press conference, this was cancelled a few hours before it was due to be held yesterday.

Explaining the government’s about-face in the statement, Mr Dorsett said if there is no oil, “then obviously it would be completely pointless, and a shameful waste of public finds, to have a referendum on the matter.

“Further, if during the course of licensed exploration activities, commercial quantities of oil are, in fact, discovered in our waters, we would then engage the Bahamian people in an extensive public information programme to ensure that all important facts are laid before the people for their consideration and discussion, well in advance of a national referendum on the matter.”

Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) CEO Simon Potter later responded to Mr Dorsett’s statement saying that the government’s decision was a good move as it clears the way for thorough assessments to be conducted on the potential of oil drilling.

In September of last year, BPC confirmed that the government had served the company notice of full compliance with the terms of its oil exploration licenses.

“(We) are pleased to be in a position to help gather and report back additional data characterizing the offshore resource potential for our licence areas bounding the Cuban border.’ Mr Potter said.

“A successful discovery offshore has the potential to generate significant value for the country and enormous long-term benefits for the Bahamian people. But while the public weighs those potential opportunities, it also has a right to know that proper care will be taken, sensible investments will be made, and the best and most suitable technology will be brought to bear to ensure that any activities conducted offshore are executed safely.”

Over the next several months, Mr Potter said, BPC plans to demonstrate transparently how exploration plans will be implemented and strengthened.

Oil drilling, BPC and its relationship with the now governing PLP were controversial topics during last May’s election campaign, especially when it was revealed that now Prime Minister Perry Christie had worked as a consultant for the oil company through the law firm Davis & Co, which represented BPC.

Current Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis was a partner in the law firm at the time, while PLP candidate Jerome Gomez was the BPC resident manager in Nassau.

Mr Christie later sought to “set the record straight” in a statement last April, in which he emphasised that he was a consultant for the company only before the matter sparked public interest.


tonymontana 10 years, 8 months ago

this is the most lieinis Government the Bahamas will ever see , they are liars of the highest order , but what saddens me is that we the general populace allow these men with clay feet to piss on us and expect us to call it gold, In their mandate to govern they promised to consult the people about oil exploration now they say they will drill and then and only then if they find oil they will then take it to a referundumb . Its a case of the Dr operating with out the womans consent , killing the baby in the process , then asking for permission to proceed further. We need to ask the people of hunters and pinders point what a little oil spill can do , ask the fokls in hepburn town what the oils spill has done to their small coastal village . wake up bahamas. Koed Smith and Renegotiate ,bahamas sell out trust , you guys need to talk sense to this wutluss sell out crew and tell them straighten up and fly right .


242 10 years, 8 months ago

Christie dont want take the chance of losing another referendum. So he skippin it. No worries 70% of plps wont even notice


bakman 10 years, 8 months ago

Finally, the government decided to do what we voted them in to do - GOVERN. As far as 'clean up' costs are concerned, that is irrelevant, as oil companies (BPC and its larger partner) will have insurance policies to cover this.

At least we will have a chance of not putting our kids in debt for the rest of their lives.


MartGM 10 years, 8 months ago

"Clean up costs" are only a small part of the bigger issue. The real concern is the marine life. We live in a country with an ABUNDANCE of marine life that can't be found anywhere else because of overfishing, pollution, etc. Remember, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (BP oil spill)? Well...the gulf is STILL experiencing effects nearly three years later.


Concerned 10 years, 8 months ago

Bakman, is a typical get rich quick or die trying type of people that this government is catering too. No more such thing as hard work and ingenuity.


tonymontana 10 years, 8 months ago

Some people really need to stay to the back man. How will insurance pay for beach that will never be pristine again? how will insurance bring the marine life back to our waters in our life time ? Its all about money to some who sit in these dark back rooms cutting these shady deals. some of us just need to stay to the back , making these asinine statements. i hope you like your talapia fried dry.


wachawant 10 years, 8 months ago

Holding a referendum on oil drilling is of much more importance than a referendum on gaming. It is with great sadness that I place the blame for losing this right squarely on the FNM and the Media for politicizing the referendum process. During the referendum on gaming, the Media assisted and abetted the FNM in making the referendum a completely political process, rather than a matter that included real nonpartisan issues to be decided by the Bahamian people. The politicization of the referendum process is a treacherous act, which makes a mockery of nation building and progress for all Bahamians.

I am a supporter of the FNM on many things, but in this they acted like children and should be scolded. In order to score a cheap political victory, they degraded the entire referendum process. It is for this reason that I cannot blame the PLP for their actions today in allowing exploratory drilling in The Bahamas prior to a referendum. The reason being, the idea of holding a referendum no longer exists in The Bahamas. A referendum has now become a game or rallying cry, where one political party tries to make the other party look bad by obtaining a majority "No" vote.

In moving forward, the issue of holding a referendum on oil drilling is of less importance than The Bahamas Government negotiating the protection of the long term interests of the Bahamian people. The rate of royalties on oil extracted must be increased from 12.5% to 18%, which reflects the internationally accepted rate and is charged by the US for offshore drilling. I would hope the rate would be raised further to 25%, because The Bahamas has much more to lose than the US from an oil spill.

Hopefully, one day the term referendum will not be a politically charged and sullied noun. It will stand for the people of The Bahamas being granted the right to determine their destiny. Until that time, however, I do not expect any political party to suffer the absurd degradation and political maelstrom that occurs from holding a national referendum.


jackbnimble 10 years, 8 months ago

I do not agree with you, wachawant. It is not the FNM that sullied the word "referendum". It is the Government. The PM put his foot in his mouth from the word "go" when he said the Government has no horse in the race and then proceeded to advocate by his actions and words for a "yes" vote. When I hear the word "referendum" I now associate it with something stupid and senseless so if I were this present administration, I would stay away from holding any more referendums for a while. We are still reeling from the last one and the taste in our mouths is not very good at this time.


concernedcitizen 10 years, 8 months ago



banker 10 years, 8 months ago

Not to worry about the environment. There simply is no oil. These BPC folks are in it to make money from the stock play. By concentrating on the oil and possible wealth, they have the Bahamians (who aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer) right where they want them.

After several years, dry holes and such, everyone will go home, except the company will go home with millions from the stock play, and anyone who buys their stock in the form of Bahamian Depository Receipts will lose there money. Have you checked the price of their stock. It's a penny stock on a basically unregulated exchange, and the marketmaker is also the company operator.

Of course, Bahamians have no experience of this type of operation, because there are no other natural resources in the Bahamas, so this is virgin territory for the fleecing of the population.


concernedcitizen 10 years, 8 months ago



John 10 years, 8 months ago

Everyone seems to be missing the point. If Cuba is drilling and has struck oil, most likely that vein or pocket of oil runs under the Bahamas. With technology Cuba can pump all the oil out. SO the Bahamas cannot wait on a time-wasting, indecisive referendum, it must act now and tap into this oil resevoir, else it will all be gone in a few years. Oil spills are NOT normal occurances, they are accidents. Once the government ensures that all parties play safe the chances of spills are minimum. Royalties from oil can set this country off, financially and make every Bahamian wealthy. And if government plays its cards right it can put 25% of these royalties in a trust for furture generations and this country will never be broke again. So lets say 25% of thr royalties go into a trust, 25% goes directly to the Bahamian people, 25% goes to the government and the other 25% goes to youth, education and sports and cultural development...how can you go wrong..you are talking about billions of dollars


concernedcitizen 10 years, 8 months ago



tinytim 10 years, 8 months ago

Bet everyone saying how great oil drilling be is either going to benefit themselves personally or doesnt love our Bahamas. PLP is running scared coz they know the people dont want oil, so they say it's just exploratory drill they going to allow. It only takes one well to have a Macondo on our doorstep.. and then what, what about all the other areas where there might be oil, exploratory well number 2 a few miles away,then exploratory well number 3, 4, 5.? the whole thing is nuts. People should have their say before any well is drilled.


LChristinaLA 10 years, 8 months ago

http://tribune242.com/users/photos/20...">http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin..." alt=" good aerial picture of the continuous BEC oil leak, this happens every single day, its just a matter of were the wind blows it, its so frustrating to watch a country shit all over the ocean that keeps people coming, no one will care till the waters black and tourist stop coming and giving them money. we have to drive our boats through this and dive through it every day in one spot or another, its embarassing to have to explain it to tourists how come here to give money to a country that doesn't care. ">

http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin..."> good aerial picture of the continuous BEC oil leak, this happens every single day, its just a matter of were the wind blows it, its so frustrating to watch a country shit all over the ocean that keeps people coming, no one will care till the waters black and tourist stop coming and giving them money. we have to drive our boats through this and dive through it every day in one spot or another, its embarassing to have to explain it to tourists how come here to give money to a country that doesn't care. by LChristinaLA

Before they begin to drill. They need to deal with this oil spill by BEC. If they cant even contain that what makes you think they have the sense to partner with another company and explore anything?lol


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