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Oil Drilling Is 'Reckless Response' To Debt Woe

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Sam Duncombe

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Activists yesterday blasted the government’s decision to give the environmental go-ahead for oil drilling in Bahamian waters as “a reckless and irresponsible response” to the country’s debt woes.

Sam Duncombe, reEarth’s president, told Tribune Business that providing the necessary Environmental Authorisation (EA) for Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) exploratory activities was an attempt at a “quick fix” for the nation’s fiscal and economic woes.

Arguing that tourism and the environment are The Bahamas’ two main industries “whether we like it or not”, she accused successive PLP and FNM administrations of “failing miserably” to protect the country’s natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

While The Bahamas stands to earn a royalty fee, calculated as a percentage of each barrel produced, if oil is found, Mrs Duncombe said citizens “need to wake-up from the dream” that they will see any benefit from such proceeds.

Parliament has already passed a law to create a sovereign wealth fund, which would hold the government’s share of oil exploration revenues, but Mrs Duncombe accused it of using this mechanism to convince Bahamians “everyone will get a piece of the action when they will not”.

Her concerns were echoed by Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director for the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), who yesterday told this newspaper that approving BPC’s exploration activities is “a very dangerous move for The Bahamas and the region”.

She argued that it was “hypocritical” of The Bahamas to permit fossil fuel exploration in its waters given the sector’s impact on climate change, which this nation last year experienced the full brunt of with climate change.

Mrs Duncombe, meanwhile, said the prospect of oil exploration in Bahamian waters had always been treated “as a get-rich-quick scheme” by the government and many citizens when this was not the case.

“It’s a reckless and irresponsible response to the fact we don’t have enough money to pay our debt,” she argued to Tribune Business. “Stop borrowing so much bloody money. It’s not only this government; every government has looked for a quick fix to the monetary issues in this country rather than empowering people to make money themselves and become part of the tourism industry.

“Tourism, whether we like it or not, is our main industry. We need to protect that because it’s our main business, and we need to protect the environment because it’s our main business. We’ve failed to do that miserably, and continually. In 2020 it’s no longer acceptable.”

BPC has stressed that its first exploratory well, which will be dug in waters south-west of Andros near the maritime boundary with Cuba, will only be used to determine the presence of commercial quantities of oil rather than extract it. As a result, the prospects of any spill or impact to the environment are minimal.

With the government poised to add more than $1.5bn to the national debt post-Dorian, taking the direct charge to over $9.2bn by mid-2023, and a national unemployment rate still stubbornly in the double digits, many observers have argued that prospect of discovering commercial quantities of oil is one The Bahamas simply cannot afford to ignore given its need for an economic ‘game changer’.

Mrs Duncombe, though, decried such notions yesterday. “How is it a game changer if we’re being paid a couple of million dollars a year and BPC is being paid billions of dollars a year?” she argued. “And that’s only if they find oil. We need to put that to rest.

“We have an amazing country in terms of its natural resources, and we need to start learning to appreciate them so that they serve us in the long run. That’s not happening with any administration I’ve seen. No one gets it. They’ve given it away here, there and everywhere to the highest bidder.”

BPC has previously said its commercial terms with the Government involve a ‘sliding scale’ of royalty fees, with the rates tied to production (the daily volume of oil, measured in per barrel terms) that is extracted from Bahamian waters. The royalty rates range from a low of 12.5 per cent for 75,000 barrels per day to a peak of 25 per cent for 350,000 barrels per day or more, with a production licence granted for 30 years.

The Government’s share of these revenues would be deposited into a sovereign wealth fund, with the proceeds to be used to benefit the Bahamian people. However, Mrs Duncombe expressed scepticism, adding of BPC’s project: “It’s always been treated as a ‘get rick quick’ scheme. That’s not going to happen.

“For people who believe somewhere down the line that every Bahamian will get a piece of the oil action they need to wake-up from that dreamscape because they’re not going to get it. I think the Government is duplicitous in how they’re portraying this sovereign wealth fund - that everyone will get a piece of the action. They’re not.

“The Bahamian people think they’re going to get a pay cheque at the end of the month if they find oil. They need to wake up. We have nothing to do with BPC except a tiny, tiny piece of the action if they find oil. This sovereign wealth fund is a red herring to make people believe they will get $1,000 a month if they find oil. It won’t happen. Wake up.”

Mrs McKinney-Lambert, BREEF’s executive director, voiced concern that the leases BPC holds for drilling cover areas of importance to both the fishing and tourism industries. She argued that oil/fossil fuel exploration was also incompatible with the fight against climate change, especially since The Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable nations to this.

“I am deeply concerned to hear this news,” she told Tribune Business of BPC’s environmental authorisation permit. “This is a very dangerous move for The Bahamas and the region.

“Hurricane Dorian clearly exposed our vulnerability in the face of increasingly intense climate-fuelled hurricanes that impact our low-lying islands. It was a stark reminder of the dangers of moving ahead with oil drilling or refining.”

Mrs McKinney-Lambert continued: “Last year, The Bahamas declared a state of climate emergency, recognising that we are one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the adverse effects of climate change.

“In light of this, it is inappropriate and hypocritical to embark on a new industry drilling for fossil fuels in our waters to release into the atmosphere more of the very greenhouse gasses that are driving climate change.

“In addition, the location of the leases for oil drilling are in vast areas of The Bahamas that are critical areas for our fishing and tourism industries. As countless oil spills from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico have demonstrated, oil drilling is a dirty industry that is not compatible with fishing and that jeopardises our reputation as a clean tourism destination.

“It is time to look carefully at this, discuss broadly and transparently taking into consideration the diverse stakeholders who may be impacted, and truly evaluate the risk that oil drilling poses before allowing any drilling to take place. The future of all of us and of future generations depends on it.”

Comments

proudloudandfnm 1 month, 1 week ago

Ya'll stop worrying if there is a spill I have no doubt Cuba can clean their shoreline up. Sheesh….

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

The down current reality from our decades long neglect of educating our citizenry. All for ourselves, think nothing of others and future generations of Bahamians. PM and Minister of Environment should resign.

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ColumbusPillow 1 month, 1 week ago

Mrs Duncombe, please visit Guyana which has no debt problem and where that nation's youth have a future!

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 1 week ago

Guyana: 30% live below the poverty line, 49.2% employment rate... It somewhat supports what Duncombe is saying, if Guyana is doing "extremelly" well with oil exploration, it doesnt seem to be filtering down to the poor

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

ColumbusPillow only comments on this issue. It is clear they are paid to do so by Bahamas Petroleum.

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Old_Salt 1 month, 1 week ago

Shame on the Bahamas for selling their soul to the oil industry. It will change the waters of this island nation forever. Just take a look at the central and western Gulf of Mexico. Remember that the Deep Water Horizon rig was an exploratory well. You have too much to lose and very little to gain. When they drill, they spill.

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Comrade Sister Sam, do call out me name if I should lie on the criminal law!
What more can you expect out a colony's government - where on law books it reads that if you're caught engaging with another in act fornication - you're subject to a fine £250 pound sterling and still a colonial judge can imprison you serve jail time up at Fox Hill? Can't write this stuff. Just, can't.

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laallee 1 month, 1 week ago

A commercially viable oil find could transform the Bahamian economy. All around other Caribbean countries are exploring/producing oil- Do you really want to sit and watch? Revenue used wisely can promote green energy usage, education and better health care for generations. Stop moaning and take advantage of BPC and it's investors who will be paying all the costs!

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

All the costs? Of eliminating a good portion of sentient life on earth? What the hell haven't you been reading? Do you read at all?

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 1 week ago

it's a shortsighted assertion.

Rachel Maddow has written an entire book on the subject after studying the oil industry's footprint in developing economies. She found without exception that when the money started flowing in corruption increased exponentially. The money never trickles down, politicians just got bigger payoffs. Few jobs were created, the job offerings were for those highly technically skilled and women were disadvantaged. She also found evidence that over time the economy suffered because there was less focus on innovation in favour of a quick payday. The environment without exception suffered great damage. Taking a look at how the govt has cozied up to Carnival even after finding out that there were actually more toxic waste dumping in our waters than even the 40m fine Miami judge knew about, I see no reason to believe that over time the Bahamas will suffer the same fate as Venezuela, Iraq and oil rich African countries. Why is Africa so poverty stricken when they have such a wealth of resources?

And how do the foreign companies take such a ginormous payday in face of the blight they leave behind?

Look at Halliburton and Iraq. Halliburton was mentioned in this local oil deal as well I believe. Don't expect them to care about us or our pretty water.

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

Just wondering how much it cost BPC to buy off our MPs. Our own representatives can't be ignorant of what this will really cost this country, can they?

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Bahama-Sam 1 month, 1 week ago

This article is pure rubbish and all of you sheep are falling for the con.

1) Tourism is more polluting than oil. All of the aeroplanes and the cruise ships which bring the tourists for a few hours\days, use dirty diesel fuel. Every ship also has another 2 following it for supplies.

Tourism is a dirty industry and your hypocrites.

2) Have you ever seen an electric car? Does it have plastic body panels (e.g. it's bumpers)? What is plastic made from?

3) Every time you ride your bike or driver your electric car, lubricants are used. This used to be from whale oil (you killed the animal) until oil was discovered. Where are you going to get your lubricants from If there is no oil?

4) Ink Upholstery CDs Vitamin Capsule Denture Adhesive Putty Guitar Strings Heart Valves Anesthetics Cortisone Toilet Seats Crayons Pillows Artificial Turf Deodorant Lipstick Hair Coloring Aspirin ...................etc.

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 1 week ago

You are missing the point. The Bahamas has, without question, one of the most beautiful maritime environments in the world. Why risk contaminating this pristine environment for oil? It simply can't be justified and deep down, if you look, you know it too.

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Bonefishpete 1 month, 1 week ago

Drill Baby Drill. We all Clampett's now.

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Comrade Bonefish, the most expensive home for sale today in all of America can become the new residence for one we new billionaire oil baron foreigners for but a cool $195 million - it's the “Beverly Hillbillies” mansion and the price is after it dropped $50 million off its current listing price. Can't write this stuff. Just, can't.

  • The Beverly Hillbillies theme song -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvE9z...">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvE9z...

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sweptaway 1 month, 1 week ago

One of the best thing to happen ! There are over 6000 rigs in the gulf of Mexico .The estuary that has been created for marine life is like nothing a marine biologist could dream .Off shore fishing is the best in the world there and instead of the Bahamians being potcake ,handle the income correctly and don't let the country turn into another Venezuela there can be many benefits !

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Porcupine 1 month ago

Your comment is proof that our collective IQ is dropping steadily. I'm sure you read a lot. All of the science journals, all of the stats on dead zones. The dramatic decline in fisheries the world over. Again, must work for BPC or need a job.

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birdiestrachan 1 month ago

They ban plastic bags. then drill for oil and dredge ports and OBAN is to come.

Hypocrites of the highest order. The ban on the bags hurt the poor so it is all right.

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