PLP Senator Dr Michael Darville.
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FORMER Minister for Grand Bahama and PLP Senator Dr Michael Darville is very concerned about a clause in the Heads of Agreement signed with Oban Energies that allows the proposed oil refinery project to continue despite the findings of an Environmental Impact Assessment.
He noted that the site of the proposed project is in “an environmentally sensitive area” in East Grand Bahama.
The Minnis government tabled the HOA it signed with Oban in the House of Assembly on Thursday. The project has already been met with controversy since revelations about Oban’s frontman Peter Krieger’s past issues with the SEC emerged into the spotlight.
Dr Darville, a former PLP cabinet minister and MP, believes that the clause should have been excluded from the HOA. He believes that signing an HOA before an EIA is putting the cart before the horse.
“In browsing the HOA tabled yesterday, I understand that this issue with the EIA is of concern. I would say clearly that the people of GB will not stand by and allow a project in East Grand Bahama to destroy the environment that is so necessary for the survival of this entire island,” he said.
“I have great concern about it (the clause). I do not think it should be included in the HOA. I always say it is not good to put the cart before the horse. And I think in this particular case, the government should have done their due diligence to ensure that the EIA was adequate for the proposed site rather than going the opposite way.
“They will definitely have major criticisms because of that clause. And to backpedal now to try to figure it out could mean litigation or some issues for the government to try to pull out of the deal,” said Dr Darville.
Dr Darville says he has been following the matter with Oban very carefully since the announcement by the Prime Minister about the project for East Grand Bahama.
“I can say that I have some concerns that stem back from the time when I had the opportunity to meet with representatives of Oban’s Technical team,” said the former minister for Grand Bahama.
Senator Darville indicated that he visited the proposed site which is near Stat Oil when working closely with Carnival for a Heads of Agreement for a cruise port in that area.
“What we found is that there are some sensitive water aquifers under the ground that is very important for the longevity of water supply for the entire island of Grand Bahama,” he said.
“So any project that would go into that area must satisfy these environmental concerns. And so, the site that was proposed under our administration was in close proximity to Stat Oil, and there were some sensitive issues there,” said Dr Darville.
The PLP Senator was also concerned that all requirements are met, stressing that proof of funding for the project is critical to meet the expectations underlined in the HOA.
However, he warned that government must keep in mind the past experience in dealing with issues at BORCO and the industrial sector in Grand Bahama.
Dr Darville said that even though things may not be very obvious, there is always subsidiary environmental issues that affect people, including the wind shift and problems of contamination of groundwater.
“For years the people of Pinder’s Point, Lewis Yard, and Mack Town have complained of environmental impacts that such a facility of that nature would have in their community,” he said.
Dr Darville says that he is all for growth and development for Grand Bahama.
“I believe GB is the industrial capital of the Bahamas. If it was not for industry, I think our economy would have been worse off than it is today.
“When I was the minister I pushed very aggressively for growth and development in the industrial sector and looked for companies that would operate oil storage facilities on the island – it is a perfect location for it.”
“BORCO at any particular time will have 21 million barrels of crude oil from all over the world. We understand the business and have been in the business for many years and learn how to operate in a fragile environment. But I would not have signed the HOA without doing the EIA to ensure the project would be viable, and safety protocols necessary to protect our environment in that sensitive area,” Dr Darville said.