Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, left, with Peter Krieger, non-executive director of Oban Energies. Photo: Yontalay Bowe/OPM Media Services
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis says he was “upright” and “honest” in publicly addressing concerns about the Oban Energies oil refinery and storage project planned for Grand Bahama.
In the face of calls for his resignation from Progressive Liberal Party Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, who over the weekend alleged the prime minister misled Parliament on the matter, Dr Minnis maintained he told the truth, adding that the only element he did not reveal was that the heads of agreement signing for the project at his office was ceremonial.
And as push back continues to mount over the proposed project, Dr Minnis also told reporters yesterday he does not know when the environmental impact assessment for the development will begin. The Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission (BEST), which provides guidelines for EIAs for developments in the Bahamas, is under Dr Minnis’ portfolio.
Asked by The Tribune why he did not reveal the deal involved 690 acres of Crown land leased from the government to build Oban’s refinery, the prime minister said: “I was very specific when I addressed the Bahamian people and I was upright and honest with them and now the environmentalists are dealing with the issue. The heads of agreement speaks for itself.”
Oban Energies President Satpal Dhunna revealed last week the company will lease 690 acres of Crown land from the government to build the facility. Until that point, the acreage promised to the company under a lease agreement was an unknown detail.
After the prime minister’s much-awaited mid-year budget speech last week, critics said key questions about the oil refinery and storage project remain unanswered.
Dr Minnis at the time said the beneficial owner of Oban Energies LLC is the K Family Irrevocable Trust. However, he gave no details about the people behind this trust. In addition, although funding concerns were cited as the chief reason the project went nowhere under the last Ingraham administration, Dr Minnis provided no proof of this.
Centreville MP Reece Chipman, who was recently fired as chairman of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation, has also expressed concerns that the area where the project is slated to be built is a cultural site.
To this, Dr Minnis said: “I spoke to the Oban issue in Parliament. I was very, very thorough with what I said and every now and again the PLP throw lil’ daggers at me. I would only say to them be careful. Be careful, don’t throw.
“I tell him be careful too,” he said specifically in response to Mr Cooper.
Yesterday evening, Mr Cooper responded to Dr Minnis, questioning if the prime minister’s words were a threat.
“I hope the prime minister’s words do not constitute any threat,” Mr Cooper said in a statement. “However, out of an abundance of caution, I feel compelled to report this matter to the police.”
The Nassau Guardian reported yesterday that more than a month after Peter Krieger, Oban’s then non-executive chairman, said an environmental impact assessment would begin in 45 days, the BEST Commission has still not started work on the EIA.
Responding on this issue, Dr Minnis seemed to dodge the question by saying: “The environmental entity, the EIA, that’s all spelled out in the heads of agreement, when it starts and different things I don’t know.”