By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
SEVERAL members of the United States Congress have written to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira urging them to reconsider the oil drilling agreement with Bahamas Petroleum Company.
Yesterday, Dr Minnis told The Tribune he had not formally received the letter through the Office of the Prime Minister and offered no further comment. Attorney General Carl Bethel is expected to address the oil drilling issue when the Senate meets today.
BPC’s drilling ship, Stena IceMAX, anchored out to sea between the Berry Islands and Grand Bahama last Tuesday. BPC planned to begin drilling its first exploratory well in waters 90 miles west of Andros yesterday.
The letter, dated December 17, was signed by Congressman Alcee L Hastings and supported by 16 other US Congress members in the letter to Dr Minnis and Mr Ferreira “expressing opposition” to BPC’s offshore drilling project, the Perseverance No 1 oil well.
In the letter, it was stated the agreement should be reconsidered “to protect the beauty and longevity of our fragile and shared ecosystems, the economies that depend on them, and the future of our planet.”
The letter continues: “Should BPC’s project move forward, we will be justified in fearing that the Atlantic coast is at risk of severe, even catastrophic, impact from any spills that might occur – essentially undermining the recent offshore drilling ban extension from President Trump, and future offshore drilling restrictions.
“It is unclear whether BPC has the capacity to help mitigate a serious disaster, let alone prevent one in the first place. Should a calamitous event occur, the Bahamian government and BPC’s clean-up efforts will undoubtedly require financial assistance from neighbours, including the United States, to address any spill that would spread throughout domestic and international waters.
“What’s worse, the ship arriving on your shores to begin drilling has a track record of safety issues on previous jobs, including incidents in March 2016, September 2016, and October 2017.”
On December 11, Dr Minnis told reporters he was “totally against” oil drilling in Bahamian waters, but was advised by the government’s legal department that “the commitment and everything was signed basically and we could not get out of it.”
Amid these statements, activists and now the US Congressmen and women have increased calls for the oil drilling to be called off.
“Unfortunately, we believe the agreement reached between BPC and the Bahamian government is directly contrary to the urgent call made at the United Nations just last year,” the December 17 letter continued. “In that speech, prime minister, you cited the contribution carbon emissions have made to the climate crisis and the devastating impacts this crisis continues to have on island nations like the Bahamas, including those wrought by Hurricane Dorian, rising sea levels, and natural barrier degradation.”
Congressman Hastings also sent a tweet to his followers about the proposed oil drilling in this nation.
“I’m deeply concerned about the ramifications of the offshore drilling agreement between @opmthebahamas & @bpcplc on Florida, our shared ecosystems, and our planet’s future. I urge for all leaders to reject #BigOil interests and instead address the immediate and growing #ClimateCrisis.”
The list of US Representatives that joined Mr Hastings were: Kathy Castor, Darren Solo, Charlie Crist, Gerald E Connolly, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Nydia M Velázquez, Ted Deutch, A Donald McEachin, Al Lawson, Alan Lowenthal, Abigail D Spanberger, Chellie Pingree, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, David Scott, and Donna E Shalala.
Their letter was copied to Mike Pompeo, US Department of State in Washington, and Stephanie Bowers, chargé d’Affairs at the US Embassy in Nassau.