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Govt Close To New Oban Deal

Dion Foulkes, Minister of Labour.

Photo: Lionel Smith

Dion Foulkes, Minister of Labour. Photo: Lionel Smith

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

THE government is finalising several amendments to the controversial heads of agreement it signed with Oban Energies related to a proposed oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama, according to Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.

Chief among those amendments, according to the senator, is the review and adjustment of environmental clauses, economic terms and several “restrictive” legal conditions now in the Heads of Agreement (HOA).

As a part of his budget contribution in the Senate yesterday, Mr Foulkes insisted that better days were on the horizon for Grand Bahama, starting with revisions to the Oban HOA, which he said would be complete in a few weeks.

It has been four months since the government signed the heads of agreement for the $5.5bn facility.

In that time, the deal has received intense push-back from civic groups, including several of the country’s foremost environmental organisations.

The fallout has forced some within the governing Free National Movement to come out and admit that there were gross missteps involved in the government’s decision to press forward with the deal, ultimately forcing Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to delay plans related to the project and call for a review.

According to Mr Foulkes, in the weeks after Dr Minnis’ decision, he appointed a sub-committee to analyse the project and the HOA.

“We have made many trips to Grand Bahama,” Mr Foulkes said of the committee, which he co-chairs.

“We have met with many persons in Grand Bahama including professionals who are in the industry… we are relying very heavily on the advice of Bahamian professionals and we are listening to the residents of Grand Bahama with respect to this matter,” he added.

Mr Foulkes said the sub-committee was instructed to review the HOA, with a view to improve the terms in the agreement to ensure better environmental protection to the island of Grand Bahama.

Additionally, Mr Foulkes said special focus has also been given to improving the economic terms in the conditions of the HOA, with a particular focus on making them more beneficial to the Bahamian people.

Further to that, the government’s sub-committee has also been made responsible for revising the “restrictive legal conditions” previously written into the HOA.

“I can report… in a few weeks we will have an amended heads of agreement for Oban that we believe will be acceptable to the Bahamian people at large, but more importantly acceptable to Grand Bahamians and persons living in Grand Bahama, particularly those living in East Grand Bahama,” Mr Foulkes said.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest revealed in an interview with The Tribune that he was awaiting the outcome of the government’s review.

In March, Dr Minnis admitted his administration has made mistakes with the Oban Energies project.

His admission came one month after questions were first raised about the people fronting for Oban, followed by a ceremonial HOA signing that plunged the administration into one of the most sustained controversies of its first term.

“The Oban Energies LLC project was intended to bring growth and jobs to Grand Bahama,” he told Parliament in March. “In our haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama, we made a number of missteps in the Oban Energies project. While our heart was in the right place, these missteps should not have happened. We must, we can, and we will do better.”

Dr Minnis said “more comprehensive due diligence” should have been done and “wider environmental consultation” should have been engaged.

According to the HOA tabled in Parliament in March, the government relinquished its ability to terminate the agreement because of what environmental impact assessments may conclude about the safety of the project, prompting an outcry from some critics.

However, the agreement empowered the minister responsible for the environment to force the discontinuation of any “operation or equipment” from the project that causes an environmental infraction.

In addition to Oban, the government has been able to jump-start several other projects in Grand Bahama, an effort Mr Foulkes termed as putting “the magic back” in the island.

Responding directly to assertions by former minister for Grand Bahama, current Senator Michael Darville, on the state of the island, Mr Foulkes said the government is moving closer to “turning things around.”

Mr Foulkes highlighted the government’s efforts with the Ginn Project and the Our Lucaya Resort.

He said: “The industrial sector in Grand Bahama is keeping Grand Bahama going and keeping it alive and the FNM government, the prime minister, the Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest and all of us, we are working closely with all the stakeholders in Grand Bahama to ensure that Grand Bahama is revitalised.”

He continued: “It has nothing to do with politics, this has nothing to do with winning the five seats or losing the five seats, it has to do with the families and lives; people having money to pay bills, send their kids to school, send their kids to college, to pay their mortgage, to pay their rent; that is what this is all about and that is why we are here.

“That is why we are here. It just so happens that if we are successful and we do what we supposed to do, we will be re-elected.

“But that is not why we are doing it, we are doing it because we care as a government,” he said.

Mr Foulkes added: “I am not saying that the PLP didn’t care, don’t get me wrong, we care. I can speak affirmatively for the Free National Movement; and that is why we are doing what we are doing in Grand Bahama.”

Mr Foulkes promised that current State Minister for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson, in his upcoming Senate address, would give the specifics on the government’s activities in Grand Bahama.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Oban? Damn. Keep wasting time on less than 200 jobs that will never materialize...

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milesair 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I hope that this NEVER comes to pass. The risk of screwing up the environment for a few jobs is outrageous!

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TalRussell 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Ma Comrades, long thinking gone into why Freeport remains closed its great prosperity potential...... and it all began way back 1960's days with invasion Wallace Groves - when Freeporters started on their long journey of becoming indoctrinated with a "Socialized Mindset Disorder." Wallace Groves showed up with his Sir Stafford's Hawskbill Creek Agreement stuffed his satchel and began creation what was be overnight 'magic city." Freeporters must cease from being dependent on foreigner socialism to rise up get off their foreigner invasion dependency butts - long enough return to becoming True Out Islanders..... or keep waiting for a OBAN, or the sale a single hotel property to foreigners to come financially rescue them.... That Ma Comrade Freeporters is just begging more foreigner corporate hand me down socialism.... time open a Return Ways true Out Islanders Boot Camp.

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truetruebahamian 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Before Freeport it was a low density population and the area where Freeport now exists was called 'Pine Ridge'. Groves et al did great tings for Grand Bahama. So many of our people screwed up so much by wanting everything for doing nothing except overpopulating with unwanted outside children and wanting others to take responsibility for their irresponsibility.

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TheMadHatter 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Will the new agreement allow for the collection and distribution quarterly of even ONE CENT per barrel of oil into the individual NIB accounts of all Bahamians?

No. Of course it won't. We are only Bahamians. Our resources our free for anyone to come and take from us.

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proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Who wants to become true out islanders?

Freeport is a city. No one wants it to become "out island". And Freeport does not rely on foreigners. We are the industrial capital of the country. We have a number of mutilbillion dollar corporations here. Yes we have foreigners working here too. But we also have locals working in key positions at every single one of those foreign owned companies. Actually all of them are mostly Bahamian employees. And the salaries are far better than Nassau.

What we need is for our government to make some adjustments. That 1% processing fee.is incredibly expensive for maritime. That 25% C-10 fee is a maritime cargo killer. Because we are industrial our cargo is always very expensive. 25% of the value can range from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions. It is simply an unnacceptable price to amend a bill of laden. Especially since so much of our cargo comes from non english speaking countries. Of course there'll be errors on the documentation. 25% to correct a spelling error is ridiculous.

And we need our hotels re-opened. Industry travels. And hotels are a neccessity to travellers.

This is not something we can do. Government has to fix these issues. We have no markets right now. You couldn't make money on GB right now to save your life. We are not lazy and we are not asking for hand outs. All we want is our markets back. Then we can take care of our selves. And since we are the largest contributor to the public treasury you'd think government would be in a hurry to get GB back ok it's feet. But no, they really aren't concerned with GB at all...

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proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Largest contributor outside of Nassau...

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John 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Tax them on a sliding scale den!

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Porcupine 3 weeks, 6 days ago

The mere consideration of the Oban deal suggests that the people of The Bahamas haven't a clue. Decades of no intellectual spark, no books in the home, spare one, no clue about the emergent science. Or, maybe I am wrong, and the Bahamian people know what is coming and want to milk this earth for all it is worth, just before our islands are submerged, while our children are still young enough to move. This, I believe, is one of the saddest commentaries on our state of mind and our sense of social and moral responsibilities. Do not say you care about The Bahamas when you remain silent on an issue such as this. Perhaps we do not deserve to inhabit such a beautiful place with such ignorant views as we currently cling to.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Bahamians should note that OBAN will not pay duty or VAT nor will their foreign staff. VAT and duty is reserved for the poor and middle class.

What can they be amending ? since they have already signed the contract.

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birdiestrachan 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This fellow is another excellent liar. if his mouth is open he is telling lies. Who signed the contract along with doc?

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ThisIsOurs 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Somebody is pushing this project for personal gain.

Christie said the other day that his government didn't think these were people to do business with. And for Christie govt to say that, that really is saying something. For the Minnis govt to then see this man forge a document in front of the entire country and still bring him back fir a deal is unbelievable.

The deal has nothing to do with an oil refinery ten years down the road. The fly in the ointment is the request to purchase commercial property. If they have as much money as they claim, why can't they go out and buy it. "land grab" The "tech hub" companies have to be watched on this too.

Somebody is set to make a windfall finders fee if this deal goes through.

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