EDITOR, The Tribune.
Is the Bahamas Government going to risk destroying The Bahamas $8bn per year tourism and fisheries sector ($80bn over ten years) for Simon Potters’ promise of $5bn in oil revenue that is based on a speculative oil well and a confidential oil deal with the Bahamas Government?
Is The Bahamas Government going to risk paying billions of dollars in civil and criminal charges to the US Government (US Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, etc.) to clean up Florida beaches if there is an oil spill on the scale of the Ixtoc 1 or Deepwater Horizon (BP paid $20.8bn to settle with the US Government) oil spills that devastated the economy and environment in Mexico and the US Gulf Coast?
Did Simon Potter tell his investors in the international markets about the shallow water oil spill at Ixtoc 1, and are his investors prepared to pay damages and criminal charges on the scale of $20.8bn?
Did Simon Potter tell Bahamian officials that the proposed drill sites could drop about 80,000-tons of toxic drilling waste at the site of each well in the pristine waters of The Bahamas, or that an oil spill could go over the Great Bahama Bank?
Simon Potter outlined that if necessary his operation can mobilise a tier three response from abroad. There may not be a company in the world that could handle an oil slick the size of Ixtoc 1 if it made its way through the 700 islands of The Bahamas.
On this basis alone, the drilling operation should be stopped – immediately!
Potter’s investors can do this voluntarily, the Stena Drilling Company can move the Stena IceMAX out of Bahamian waters, the Bahamas Government can use International Treaties and Financial Services laws to stop the drilling, and the Prime Minister can as a last resort use the Emergency Powers Act to shut the operation down.
On December 4, 2020, Mr Simon Potter, CEO of Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) said on public radio that BPC’s first exploratory oil well is in Bahamian waters about 40 miles from the Cuban mainland. He claims that his company’s oil spill simulations show that oil will go to Cuba, and during hurricanes it would go over the Great Bahama Bank.
Mr Simon Potter also said:
• The nature of the ocean current actually moves any spill away from our well site towards Cuba.
• I have been to Cuba three times to talk to the Cubans because based on our analysis the major concern we have is that the oil will head to Cuba... and we will have to liaise directly with the Cubans in order to ensure an adequate cleanup.
• The emphasis will be protecting Cuba from any incident rather than The Bahamas.
Mr Potter and his team also outlined that drilling in the shallow water near the Great Bahama Bank was not as risky as drilling in the deep waters found at the site of the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Over 130 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico over a three-month period and devastated the economies and environment along the Gulf Coast of America. The owners and operators (BP, Halliburton, etc) were forced to pay a record $20.8bn in penalties and damages under the US Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act and other US environmental and criminal laws.
What Mr Potter did not disclose was that the Ixtoc 1 oil spill – one of the largest oil spills in history – was an exploratory well in shallow water (only 150ft deep) in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico. Ixtoc 1 gushed over 140 million gallons of oil over a ten-month period. Beaches from Mexico to Texas were covered in oil. Chemical dispersants were sprayed from airplanes to try and break up an oil slick covering an area estimated at over 1,000 square miles. Over $100m was spent on cleanup.
Photos of the Ixtoc 1 oil spill are shocking and depending on the conditions, a spill like Ixtoc 1 could damage the Great Bahama Bank, the Cay Sal Marine Managed Area, the West Side National Park in Andros, the Yellow Banks, White Banks, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park as well as beaches and fish breeding grounds throughout the country, including beaches in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Florida.
Every fisherman, hotel manager, tour guide in The Bahamas as well as the Bahamas Hotel Association, the Out Island Promotion Board, and the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board should wake up and demand that the Prime Minister acts immediately to stop the Stena IceMAX from drilling, and ban oil drilling in The Bahamas.
On December 1, 2020, Mrs Casuarina McKinney-Lambert (BREEF) and Mr Eric Carey (Bahamas National Trust) outlined on public radio the risks of oil drilling near the Great Bahama Bank and called on the Government to ban oil drilling in The Bahamas.
Mrs McKinney-Lambert and Mr Carey also outlined that:
• Even if there is no major oil spill, there is still pollution — about 80 tons of drill cuttings with toxic fluids per drilling site that are dumped on the sea floor – right on the edge of the Great Bahama Bank, which is one of The Bahamas’ most important fishing grounds.
• Oil drilling risks destroying over $8bn annually in natural resources in tourism and fisheries and could destroy the livelihoods of Bahamians for generations.
• Oil drilling in The Bahamas could jeopardise international treaties signed by The Bahamas.
• The Bahamas cannot afford to pay for contaminating and cleaning up beaches in Florida and Cuba.
On December 11, 2020, Dr Hubert Minnis (Prime Minister, FNM) stated he was “totally against” oil drilling in The Bahamas, and said that he would stop oil drilling if he could.
Based on the Ixtoc 1 oil spill information, and the fact that each BPC oil drilling site near the Great Bahama Bank could be contaminated with about 80,000 tons of toxic oil waste, the Bahamas Government has every right to put this confidential deal on hold indefinitely.
The Prime Minister has a duty to the Bahamian people to release the secret BPC agreement to Parliament for scrutiny by the Bahamian people, and fully disclose the names of all BPC investors.
The Prime Minister has a duty to the Bahamian people to disclose who, if anyone, extended the BPC license after it expired.
The Prime Minister must act immediately to STOP the Stena IceMAX from drilling and ban oil drilling in The Bahamas – even if he has to use the Emergency Powers Act.
December 18, 2020.