By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE draft bills for oil drilling legislation are complete and have been sent to Cabinet, Environment and Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett said.
However, he added that he does not know the timeline when the bills will be addressed in Cabinet and subsequently brought before Parliament.
If passed, the bills are expected to provide a regulatory framework for oil exploration as the country faces a possible oil drilling referendum next year.
The government announced last year that prior to any referendum, it would allow exploratory oil drilling to determine if there are commercial quantities of oil in the country.
In the lead-up to the last general election, Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said his administration would not drill for oil if re-elected, noting the potential damage that could be done to the country’s natural resources if drilling were to take place.
Nonetheless, last December, Mr Dorsett told The Tribune that the regulatory framework to govern the country’s petroleum sector will be a “priority” this year as work is done to advance regulations that would “be able to last for the next 50 years.”
The Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) was given five oil exploration licenses in April 2007, which were renewed for another three years in 2012.
The company has said that it has spent $50 million in the country, most of it on three-dimensional seismic testing. It has also completed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
If commercial quantities of oil are discovered, the government has said it would engage the Bahamian people in a public information programme to ensure all facts are made available before a national referendum.