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Oban Deal: We’Ll Never Support It

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, left, with Peter Krieger, non-executive director of Oban Energies. Photo: Yontalay Bowe/OPM Media Services

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, left, with Peter Krieger, non-executive director of Oban Energies. Photo: Yontalay Bowe/OPM Media Services

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

Bahamas National Trust is “greatly concerned” about the location of the proposed $5.5 billion Oban Energies oil refinery and storage facility in Grand Bahama, saying it cannot “envisage any scenario” where it could support the controversial project.

The non-governmental organisation said it takes its responsibilities as an advisor to government and manager of the national park systems “very seriously,” adding the proposed location of the refinery would place it in close proximity to three national parks.

In a press release issued yesterday, BNT said while it was aware of the need to create jobs, it has been documented that oil refineries pose a high risk of air, aquatic and soil pollution.

The organisation also suggested it has been kept in the dark about the deal and has formally requested an opportunity to review the full Heads of Agreement signed by Oban Energies last month and also asked the government make public the proposed site of Oban’s facility and all the information it now has on the company.

BNT also asked for the opportunity to “weigh in” on the project’s environmental impact assessment prior to its completion, saying up to now, it has only been receiving information from press reports.

However, BNT said notwithstanding the results of the EIA, the group does not see how it can support the project given the associated environmental risks.

“The Bahamas National Trust has requested information from the government of the Bahamas regarding the oil refinery and storage facility in Grand Bahama, known as the Oban Project,” BNT noted.

“BNT is greatly concerned with regards to the location of the facility, which if the reports in the press are correct, would place the refinery in close proximity to three national parks – The Lucayan National Park, the East Grand Bahama National Park, and the North Shore - The Gap National Park. The BNT has asked the government to provide the exact location of the site and to see the full Heads of Agreement. We have also asked for the opportunity to weigh in on the environmental impact assessment before completion.

“BNT wishes to state very clearly however, that notwithstanding the results of the EIA, even if there are local project impacts that the Bahamas Environment and Science and Technology Commission and the government might deem acceptable if mitigated, we cannot envisage any scenario where BNT could support this project. Whatever the specific location, this mammoth oil refinery and the industrial project will be located somewhere between three ecologically important national parks.

“Indeed, the Oban Energies website says that the facility would be ‘located off the southern tip of Grand Bahama Island, 35 miles east of Freeport’ which would place the facility extremely close to the East Grand Bahama National Park,” the BNT said.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira said the management and evaluation of all EIAs are vested in the BEST Commission, and as such, out of his purview.

Oversight of the BEST Commission was previously transferred to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

The government has been attacked for a clause in the Oban Heads of Agreement which prohibits the project’s termination whatever an EIA concludes.

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

BNT wrote yesterday: “(We are) sensitive to the need to create jobs, especially considering Grand Bahama’s depressed economy. It is absolutely crucial however, that this is not at the expense of the island’s, and by extension, the country’s, most important asset, the natural environment.

“BNT is hopeful therefore that if the assessed impact of this project is determined to be unacceptable, that the government does have an escape clause to allow us to protect the environment, contrary to what has been reported in the press.

“BNT wishes also to note that this facility advances the expansion of fossil fuels, one of the acknowledged greatest contributors to climate change.”

The statement added: “The extremely high risk that oil refineries in particular present in terms of air, aquatic, and soil pollution and their impact on flora, fauna, sea life, and local communities is extremely widely documented.

“Indeed, it is primarily environmental and safety concerns that has meant that no new refineries have been built in the United States since the 1970s, albeit existing refineries have been expanded.”

In addition to noting the fact the project would be built in an area highly susceptible to hurricanes, the BNT highlighted the importance of the three parks which would be near the refinery.

Speaking specifically to the East Grand Bahama National Park, BNT said: “(This site) is located in the area south of Sweeting’s Cay, a series of tidal creeks (that) provide prime flats fishing habitats that support the local communities in east Grand Bahama.”

Additionally, BNT said the extensive mangrove forests also act as corridors to the offshore reef system that are included in the proposed national park for East Grand Bahama.

The group also noted that the explored blue hole systems on Sweeting’s Cay are connected to undisturbed underground karst systems that are supported as national parks to benefit the local economy of Sweeting’s Cay.

Of the Lucayan National Park, which BNT recognised as the most highly visited national park in the country, the group said: “(This park) protects one of the longest charted underwater cave systems in the world; a unique system of elevated walkways through the last intact mangrove wetland on the southern shore of Grand Bahama, a magnificently wide unspoiled beach showcasing the tallest sand dunes on the island and a wealth of flora and fauna.

“This park exhibits all the Bahamian vegetative zones and is an amazing outdoor classroom for Bahamian students.”

Then lastly, of the North Shore – The Gap National Park, the BNT said: “The coastal area on the north shore consists of mangrove wetlands, tidal creeks, sand and mud flats, beach strand and rocky shores.”

BNT said an extensive area of blue holes and an unexplored karst cave system also exists in the coastal area northeast of Dover Sound.

In addition to these factors, BNT said further inland, there are pine woodlands where many bird species live.

In a paid advertisement published in The Tribune last week, Oban’s President Satpal Dhunna advised Bahamians not to pay attention to the “noise in the market” but to be aware of the positive things the project will bring to Grand Bahama, such as jobs and an expected economic boost.

Comments

Porcupine 6 months, 1 week ago

I applaud the BNT for speaking the truth. Yes, we are sensitive to the need for jobs. However, not at the expense of our environment, our health, our fisheries, our natural heritage, our very soul. Read the article again if there is something that you missed whereby you would even consider allowing a project such as this to move forward. To suggest that there should be a moment's further consideration of Oban, illustrates an intellectually impoverished position and a true reading of a so-called leader to lead us into the future. Oban should be dismissed immediately so that we can move on to more important things such as our clinics. Let it go and take it for a teachable moment. Great job BNT for looking out for the welfare of ALL Bahamians.

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stillwaters 6 months, 1 week ago

It escapes me what Bahamians really want. Do they want the drama of running amok castigating and obstructing every government they themselves put into power. Is it just the drama of it all, the posturing, the becoming a fifteen minute wonder in the newspapers, the spite of opposing parties????????? What the hell do Bahamians want????? Certainly not jobs..........that has somehow taken the back table, but I thought that was one of the main jobs they voted this government in for? I'm confused!!!!!!!!!

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

You are confused! I guess you would agree with any job creation without any thought of the environment? Why close crawfish season - then our fisherman can hire more people? Why close grouper season - more jobs? Think long-term man!!!

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joeblow 6 months, 1 week ago

Repost:

Bahamians want sensible, responsible, visionary, leadership with the ability to think beyond getting re-elected!
Bahamians don't want whats left of our birthright sold for a bowl of soup!

Bahamians want jobs, yes, but does it have to be at the expense of everything else? One oil related accident could affect tourism, fisheries and the environment for decades to come. Is that risk worth several hundred jobs?

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OldFort2012 6 months, 1 week ago

You want all that?

In that case you were born in the wrong place. Here you can only get graft corruption and incompetence. For what you want you should have been born in Switzerland.

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Porcupine 6 months, 1 week ago

Unfortunately, only the percentages differ. Humanity as a whole is being subjected to and enslaved by the wholesale corruption of the financial centers of the world, Switzerland among them. Read your history. To really understand corruption on a grand scale, look no further than the US defense department and their use of US taxpayers money. The Bahamas may aspire to this level of corruption, but can only accomplish it on a very small scale. With that said, there is no excuse for graft and corruption anywhere. Our country does manage to capture a very large percentage of people who shouldn't be trusted. Oban would only bring more of the Bahamian cream to the top.

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TheMadHatter 6 months, 1 week ago

People need to stop calling this a deal. We do not get even one cent per barrel of oil pumped or refined. Not one cent.

That is the real issue.

So we would give up the environment for 250 slave jobs. The workers will be frustrated by management until they quit and they go through all the good ones and then can have minimum wage and foreigners just like another big project in fpo currently has.

And just for kicks let me ask again....when is the damn Princess Tower road going to be reopened?

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TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Ma Comrades, if the two names I'm hearing rungs true its the same old law and accounting firm's switcheroo game once the government you're doing business with switches? Any truth BOB loan application under review Oban?

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bogart 6 months, 1 week ago

Isnt there already another oil installation Statoil already across the road that the Gand Bahama National Trust dhould have known about but doesnt say anyting bout something - cant mske dis one up now All dese years cant remember dem saying anyting bout dat one now. Again wile plenty done said bout digging up da channel for yachts on da island in Exuma disrupting acres of seabed nobody aint saying notting nomore years gone now. Aint hear BNT saying much nomore bout Bimini dock an dosruptin lemon shark habitat or was it snail darter habitat? Now Who saying anyting bout Clifton...? Solution might be to give den a donation or guarrantees or environmental staff mabye they can do as Statoil does an dont pollute.

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sealice 6 months, 1 week ago

if all Ferreira can do is make up BS about why his ministry isn't involved with this we need him out - i heard him mention the word profit last week? How does he expect anyone to profit from the environment when you are letting these foreigners in to destroy it. Ferreira you aren't even coming close to doing your job so far i haven't ever seen 1 minister of the environment that actually looked like he knew what he was protecting or ever cared about the environment.

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

Biggest Loser??? FERREIRA!!! This loser has got to go!

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John 6 months, 1 week ago

The effort was set about years ago to move the world away from fossil fuels. And with the invention of driverless cars and flying taxis, companies, like Tesla set about making electric cars more efficient, able to travel longer distances and since privately own vehicles sit idle 94% of the time, they sought to reduce the number of vehicles clogging up the earth. But the problem is more and more commercial deposits of oil are being found around the world, including unusual parts of the Middle East, parts of Africa, and in the Caribbean. So now there is a certain, silent rush back to oil because of the huge value in it. And since larger and faster ships and being built to move this oil and it’s ref products around the world, larger storage facilities and refineries in strategic locations are needed. While to say never to Oban, this current agreement is an empty briefcase as far as The Bahamas and Bahamians are concerned. In fact it is more like a leaking barrel of oil, because this country will be taking all the risks, absorbing all the pollution and getting nothing of substance in return. Oil storage and transportation and oil refining are very lucrative businesses. So ifMinnis and the FNM Government continue on this agreement without seeking reasonably substantial benefits for the Bahamian people this will be their last time in office in their lifetime.

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juju 6 months, 1 week ago

I was wondering how long it would take the BNT to speak up about the refinery! This will affect Abaconians also. I don't think that they realize it.... Why aren't more environmentalists opposing this?

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TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Ma Comrade, might have something do they alliance red party, even King's Counsel liked the red party so much - he tried make his way through backdoor via donations. {Can't make this up the colonisers never set sail across pond return back England - them among us}.

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

Does it sound like many reds are supporting this? Think straight man. People with sense oppose this and since most sensible people in The Bahamas are reds then it stands to reason that most reds oppose this. Haven't you been reading these posts??? I'm actually surprised that you and birdie oppose it. If the PLP did this you would be making a huge stink about why people oppose it!

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TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Ma Comrade, to contrary when with each meeting Imperial red shirts cabinet the cabinet Secretary's recording in minutes books points to dwindling support for the Three Dancing Amigos Minnis, KP and Carl Wilshire - with "Little Buttercup" Minnnis scoring the highest number pissed-off tallies walls closing in around them. I see things other people either don't want see - or not sufficiently focused,

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Emac 6 months, 1 week ago

The Bahamas should really be leaning more towards companies that are involved with renewable energy. For the life of me I don't know why our governments are so hooked on doing business with industries that are not good for the Bahamas.

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

Because the oil lobbyists travel with huge money bags.

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TigerB 6 months, 1 week ago

Folks, right near where OBAN will be built is another refinery called STATOIL, and in Freeport is another refinery called BORCO... these refineries run like clock work, BORCO has been giving off an odor from time to time but they are there doing what they are suppose to. This island is the industrial capital of the Bahamas, If you make noise about OBAN then make noise about the other two, which has been around forever and supported by both governments and all are by the sea. I'm not sure why persons living in Nassau or any where else making noise, they don't live here in Freeport. Its our island if anything let us complain. As I said of the Bimini Bay resort, much noise about the environment, and the coral.. but hey close it down now, so who will be getting the blame the government...we need to get real here people...the coral will not die, the environment will live on, trust me...I see all that nasty oil coming out the Clifton Pier Plant from BPL, it is in the water heck we need to complain about Nassau, they need to shut BPL down!!! People with glass houses do not throw stones!!

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Sickened 6 months, 1 week ago

I must say... for a retard you do type eloquently.

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TigerB 6 months, 1 week ago

I suppose you live in Nassau

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licks2 6 months, 1 week ago

Just a political stick-in-the-mud! They can't deal with common sense that is not in line with their party or special interests view! This group called BNT says government is wrong for signing an agreement before the EIA report. . .yet they said that they will not support the project because of possible environmental impacts. . .ALL WITHOUT THE EIA THAT CAN TELL THEM IF THEIR CONCERNS ARE REAL OR NOT!! Thats is called a closed mind that will not be opened by anything except their own agenda. . .don't waste ya time with this political buncha ninnies around this site. . .THEY THINK LIKE A BUNCHA ANDROS YARD CHICKENS WHEN IT COMES TO ANYTHING BESIDES THEIR OWN OPINIONS!

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bogart 6 months, 1 week ago

...evrrywhere you go in Nassau there is some pollution.....from garbage burning city dump fer days...an days.....cruise ships dumping in da ocean...? All dat cruize ship black smoke by downtown..backyard mechanics an engine oil......some rite round da corner from the Trust. Village road dozen?....continuous flooding in Pinewood flooding all dem cesspots......? cesspits in shantytowns an city wid faeces directly into ground......hundreds of jitneys smoking passing right in front of Natonal Trust ...Clifton..right in Nassau wid plenty of pictures frequently.....an the Bahamas National Truss silent like cat gat dey tongue...... but plenty to say all da way ...over in Grand Bahama where dey done hav laws to prevent bavkyard mechanic shops, unauthorized shantytown.....burning garbage dump...outhoise in Freeport....

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TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Ma Comrade Bogart, even rulers Kingdon Saudi Arabia weigning from oil production. Shouldn't we at least appoint commission to take close look of 100% moving away from McDonalds Burgers and Fries spending types cruise ship tourism - within 20 years time. .... which would allow return some 17 "gifted away" Private Islands.

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bogart 6 months, 1 week ago

@TalRussell....fully agree on developing alternative energy sources...diversefying economy....would even simplier get some COB students to write some papers on this .....an develop business...plan...dey really needing to use COB ..UB more...but meantime problem still is a defecit wid the money an da Mighty Sparrow done say one tru tru ting dat 'you cant make love on hungry belly'

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TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Ma Comrade, children's being born the Bahamland are forced wear baby diapers made from OK Flour sacks. We have minister education with a 5-year plan place security cameras in school yards so nightwatchman's can sit in office see who wonder out in school yards.....what ever happened free laptop every one school children's.... all this going in whilst host on Guardian Talk radio talking about man's wife jerking off her husband's dick.... {no making dick, up, no pun intended}. Brungs back Creole Talk Show cause they never talks about people's dick. I reach point where I doubt I will survive this kinds 'red airwaves freedom say anything slips inside head' Bahamland, another full calendar year.

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