Refinery 'A Death Knell'


Save The Bays chairman Joseph Darville.


Tribune Freeport Reporter


THE signing of a heads of agreement for the Oban oil refinery in East Grand Bahama is being characterised as a “death knell” for the environment and the people of the island, according to one environmental activist.

Joseph Darville, of Save the Bays, a non-profit environment group, said it is a colossal mistake to approve such a project in an area that boasts of having one of the most pristine environments in the country.

He stressed residents have already witnessed and continue to be impacted by the devastating effects of an oil refinery in the southwest part of the island.

His comments came as an online petition has been launched to stop the project from going ahead.

“It is an amazing misstep of our government to go ahead to this extent that they would sit down with some foreign entity and sign an agreement which is actually signing a death knell for our environment and people,” Mr Darville said. “And I am saying that unequivocally because we have not been provided with any sort of information to allow us to come to any other conclusion.”

Oban Energies Executive Director Peter Krieger, during the signing on Monday, expressed his eagerness of having an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the oil refinery and storage terminal completed in 45 days.

However, Mr Darville believes that it is “ludicrous” to think that an EIA for such a project would be ready in such a short space of time.

“They are putting the cart before the horse. We should have been informed about the vicinity, and the exact dimension of the development. This EIA should be done by an independent agency, not one appointed by the government or the company that is proposing to do this development - this is a gross insult to the people of the Bahamas, and particularly to Grand Bahamians.”

The Save the Bays executive indicated that the project could threaten about five to six different ecosystems in East Grand Bahama.

“A project of that magnitude with plans to be producing 50,000 barrels of refined fuel per day would have a catastrophic impact on environment and people,” he claimed.

Fisherman and businessman Fritz Thompson, who operates of a small bone fishing lodge in Sweeting’s Cay, East Grand Bahama, does not welcome the project.

“Being a crude distillation operator many years ago, I am very familiar with the potential environmental threat that can come from a refinery, and I share the concerns of the residents,” he said.

“We have heard of the existing concerns of the residents in the Pinder’s Point area, and one should be very concerned that we do not have the same in this area.”

Mr Thompson indicated that the residents of McLean’s Town, Sweeting’s Cay, and Moore’s Island make a living from the sea catching conch, lobster, and fish.

“We also have some of the most beautiful beaches on that coastline that needs to be protected. I feel that (while) this new refinery and storage will be built with the latest and best technology to minimise and eliminate pollution and spills, I do not welcome this project and trust the government to ensure that all necessary measures are put in place to address the concerns.”

He also suggested that the government consider putting a clause in the agreement that would allow for the construction of a public harbour that can service the needs of East Grand Bahama.

Eco-tour guide Rudy Sawyer, of Blue Green Outdoors, who takes groups on eco-tours to East End, believes that Freeport would be a more suitable location for the oil refinery project.

“The government talked about focusing on promoting the east as eco-sensitive area, and the west for its cultural heritage. But to hear them encouraging a group to put up an oil terminal is anti-eco-sensitive, and for it to be in the most eco-sensitive zone that they had taken a policy decision to set aside for eco-tourism developments.

“I think that Freeport would have been an ideal spot for that type of development. East End is really the richest ecological area – one of the richest we have in the country. It has been well known for the bone fishing that is going on, and I certainly would hate to know they would do things that could disrupt that.”

Gail Woon, of EARTHCARE, had mixed feelings about the project that could provide hundreds of jobs on the island.

“I would like to see people have jobs in Grand Bahama because we desperately need jobs (here). But I was hoping that our country would move away from fossil fuels instead of investing in fossil fuels which contributes to climate change as we are already being impacted by more severe hurricanes, and people are being affected all over the world.”

Ms Woon, a marine biologist, agrees the refinery could have been located where there is already environment damage in the industrial area.

“It would be little or less impact because you would not be impacting the pristine coastal areas, the mangroves, coppice and forest areas, and the water tables,” she said

Officials have said the project would create 1,000 construction jobs, and provide 600 permanent jobs for Bahamians.

Meanwhile, a petition called ‘Stop the Oban Energies oil refinery project. It will destroy the beautiful Bahamas’ can be found on change.org. It had less than 100 signatures up to press time.


Economist 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Stop being theatrical. Grand Bahama needs, desperately needs the jobs. Good paying jobs with benefits.

Done properly there should not be much effect on the environment.

The amount of fishing done is not enough to grow the economy in the East End. It is not expanding, is not creating jobs for an expanding population. The days of the little fishing village are dying.

The East End already has destroyed much of its so called pristine environment with derelict cars leaking highly toxic transmission fluid into the ground and whatever water under it.

Tourism provides low paying jobs with little or no benefits or security.

The Oban project, IF DONE PROPERLY would go a long way to stabilizing the East End economy.


bogart 9 months, 3 weeks ago

What hyprocracy!!!

The tings yinna shoudda been protesting fer decades and picketing that led to the utter devestation people lining up for bowk a soup, collecting food from doners, banks taking advantage selling homes two middle pages newspapers pages wid nothing but homes for sale...and how many years of slidjng downhill yall done nottin fer da people and now govt trying to help put food in da chillren mout yall now protesting???? What manner a people are you the few..... that want to keep everybodyelse down..? Swear if Mother Thrresa was to show up to help yinna would be condemning her..?.pulease yinna better fix ya mout and try do betta....


juju 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The air pollution will surely affect Abaco also.


Economist 9 months, 3 weeks ago

You can't be serious. If you are then it is clear that you are living in the 1950's and 1960's.


birdiestrachan 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Grand Bahama is the hurricane capital of the world. How many oil refineries does one Island need? When the environment is messed up. Then the investors move on. when the Hurricanes approach they leave the Island.

The beaches turn to rocks. If according to some BORCO is so bad, the promises of jobs may be a pie in the sky. money is not everything. good health is. once you are lying on your back in a overcrowded hospital looking at the ceiling it does not mean much,

Turnquest says it is good without even having an Environmental study done. These fellows are desperate so they make desperate decisions.


Porcupine 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I find it sad to read the short sighted, uninformed comments here. The world is in the mess it is in because we have listened to and followed the advice of people such as those commenting here. What is required is a new way of thinking. As example, two comments by Economist above; "Tourism provides low wage jobs with little or no security or benefits" "Done properly there should be much effect on the environment." These comments are utterly wrong, baseless and show a gross misunderstanding of tourism and a lack of reality regarding environmental issues. Sit small Economist. You missed a few classes. Tourism is perhaps the best way to grow an economy, bringing hard dollars in, while preserving the environment, quality of life, and providing many well-paying jobs in the area. Be they bonefishing guides, taxi cab drivers, food store owners, and anyone else who has the initiative to get a piece of the action. I'm not talking about the cruise ship industry. I am talking about tourism based upon the things we value most; our pristine waters, fantastic beaches, sunny days, and the historic, cultural and other amenities that currently exist in The Bahamas. These things all have a value. Have I read this over and over in our papers? Do we not see this ourselves? How many locals will get a piece of the action with an oil refinery? As for the environment. Anyone able to read understands that the age of oil is coming to an end. The slowness with which it is occurring is wholly due to the huge economic interests vying for profits and global power, and of course an entrenched myopic world population who has been deliberately misled and deceived.


Porcupine 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Show me an area that isn't completely trashed, and where the people are healthy and making a good living by living near, or working at, an oil-related business, platform or refinery. We have been listening to the likes of Economist for a long time. All they think about is the arguments for making more money, irrespective of the realities of increasing wealth disparity, environmental degradation, sustainability, or a host of other social ills which may accompany a particular business model. Tourism allows for a much more equitable sharing of wealth and various business opportunities, entrepreneurship, and a host of associated occupation choices. Mr. Darville is absolutely correct. His problem is that he has to be politically correct and not say that commenters like Economist and others like him/her are full of shite. Sea levels are rising. The Bahamas are one of the world's most threatened nations. We are asking for economic assistance in making the necessary preparations for what is coming. Yet, we still wish to carry on supporting the activities which are a major cause for concern. Only a handful of scientists are still in denial about the contribution mankind makes to existential climate change. Sure, change is inevitable, just like death. But I don't need some idiot killing me sooner than I would go naturally, and we as a species do not need to hasten the extinction of so many of the world's inhabitants, just for a few extra dollars. The world needs to grow up. This is especially true here in The Bahamas. Education is very important. Yet, even more important is how we use this education. We can use it to solely enrich ourselves. Or, we can use the vast amount of information available today to make this world a better place for us and our fellow species on this planet. This requires change. If this urgency for change is not obvious to you, I recommend rethinking your idea of education. As for Mr. Darville. Stay the course. You are absolutely correct and on the right side of history. And, I applaud your courage in this sea of ignorance.


sheeprunner12 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Joe Darville is a proud Long Island man .......... He should be lobbying for an investment to come to his depressed homeland ......... Especially Deep South where his roots lies.

Can he suggest some eco-friendly investment for his beloved home island??????? ........... smh


bogart 9 months, 3 weeks ago

......go to the root of the problem.?. We elect leaders based on their Charisma....few technocrats...who become part of the nomenklatura....fixed unyeilding group related just continuing the old ways...noone rocks the boat.... Y Capitalizing on what we have, sun, sand, sea. We should have had search parties to put together electricity from tidal currents, solar power, use pf sand for glass, solar panels, etc However the nomenklatura just continues along the same path of collecting the monthly paychecks and voters voting govts out


themessenger 9 months, 3 weeks ago

If anyone thinks an oil refinery is a good thing for Grand Bahama or anywhere else in the country for that matter, take a look at the benefits being reaped by Nigeria, a country that embraced that industry.


Do you really think our Government ready to take on these people?? Go figure!


Economist 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The oil industry, in Nigeria was set up in the 60's and 70's. Procedures that we would put in place had not been thought of then.

You cannot compare the two. BORCO and StatOil are considerably cleaner than their predecessors of the 60's and 70's.


Porcupine 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Who's we? Which "we" are you talking about. The "we" that ignored the Rubis oil spill for so long, costing who knows how many illnesses and premature deaths of Bahamians. The "we" who continues to ignore many documented oil spills off of Clifton Pier? When you say "we" Mr./Mrs. Economist, are you part of Oban? Because if you say "we", as in here in The Bahamas, you may as well try and sell me BahaMar. "We" have shown time and again and again that we are not able to keep our power on, have enough beds in PMH, do I really have to go on? Really? And you want me to believe that "we", the human part of "we" have proven ourselves to uphold the highest environmental standards and will keep check on a big company like Oban? Go fly a kite. Grand Bahamians need to come together to revitalize the industry that had already put them onto the world map. That is tourism. The infrastructure is still there and upgrades can be made. All of the natural, human and geographic resources are already there. Tourism has failed there for knowable reasons. Go back to the drawing board, rethink the strategy. Figure out where we went wrong. Fix the problems. Begin again. Try harder. Government, get out of this deal while it is still politically and legally possible. Protect our natural resources. Do not threaten our country's well-being, food sources, and way of life all for the sake of a few million in bribes, I mean tax money. Sorry.


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