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Tourism Operators Seek Oil Exploration 'Pull Back'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Water-based tourism operators yesterday voiced optimism that the threat of legal action will force the Government to "pull back" on oil exploration with some revealing it has already cost them business.

Shawn Leadon, joint proprietor of Andros Island Bonefish Club, and head of Andros Outdoor Adventures, told Tribune Business that a 24-strong group booking from New York that was due to arrive during the first week in November had cancelled on the basis that The Bahamas appeared not to be taking eco-tourism seriously.

Expressing hope that the potential Judicial Review litigation, and injunction bid to halt Bahamas Petroleum Company's (BPC) first exploratory well, will increase "pressure" on the Minnis administration to reverse course, Mr Leadon said: "This is a very sensitive matter, so sensitive that just the perception alone damages my business and other businesses on the island because of the clientele we cater to.

"Having them halt the project, and taking legal action, is the right thing to do. I'm just hoping with all the pressure being put on government that they should pull back. This is exploration for something we don't know that we have. How is it that we burn a hole in what we have already to explore something else. It doesn't make sense to me. It's very damaging to my business. The perception alone is damaging."

Asked if he had suffered any tangible impacts yet, with BPC planning to spud its first exploratory well in waters more than 90 miles west of Andros beginning on December 15, 2020, Mr Leadon replied: "I have had a lot of cancellations due to the thought of that.

"Persons don't want to come into a situation where the environment is not taken care of. I had a big group of 24 that was due to come in during the first week of November, who are looking to lobby against this whole deal. A lot of guys in the group were talking about this not being the destination they want to go to.

"These guys are heavy hitters, and they're very disappointed in that regard. They've been coming here for 30 years and never once have they seen any indication that the Government was not taking this seriously. If the Government allows oil drilling in an eco-sensitive destination, they're not in tune with what an eco-sensitive destination is."

Neal Watson, owner of Neal Watson's Bimini Scuba Centre, voiced fears to Tribune Business that any oil spill would have an impact similar to Hurricane Dorian, where international media made it seem as if the entire Bahamas was impacted rather than just one island.

Backing the legal action threatened by the Our Islands, Our Future group and its allies, he said: "I'm supportive of anybody acting in the best interests of the environment and state of the environment.

"The Bahamas has been catching up on eco-tourism centric places like Costa Rica and Mexico, which have been doing it for some years. I'd hate to see any setback to the progress we have made in that sector from something potentially happening with that [oil drilling."

Mr Watson added that "the risk is high, especially for the eco-tourism sector; it's super, super high". However, he also urged the Government and BPC to be more transparent on the potential benefits from striking commercial oil quantities, and in particular detail how the Bahamian people might benefit and by how much, so a proper risk/reward assessment could be made.

"The way 2020 has been going, I'm just trying to stay in business and trying to keep food in the mouths of the people who work for me," Mr Watson said. "We're just trying to stay in business at this point."

Members of the Our Islands, Our Future group yesterday urged BPC to "cease and desist" from its oil drilling plans until their court action is heard. “To be clear, we intend to stop BPC from drilling in Bahamian waters,” said Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeeper Bahamas and member of the group's steering committee.

“We are very encouraged by the huge support, both local and international, that we continue to receive. Over 100 businesses and organisations have joined the Our Islands, Our Future coalition and 40,000 concerned individuals have signed the change.org petition. The petition numbers are growing every day.

“At the same time, we are disappointed with the lack of dialogue with the Bahamas government, and are finding it necessary to ask the courts of law to step in and examine the approvals process. The company has been duly put on notice; any further actions to pursue or accelerate its plans will be undertaken at its own risk," she added.

“The coalition had hoped to avoid legal action, which is why we wrote to the Prime Minister about our concerns several times but got no response. Now, as the drill ship is about to sail, we have been left with no choice.”

Fellow steering committee member, BREEF executive director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, said the group believe there were certain fundamental flaws in the approvals process, including a deficient Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a lack of proper consultation at various stages, which means that BPC’s approvals need to be revisited.

“We have asked repeatedly to be consulted on the details of the deal, to see the drilling licences themselves, for access to more information on BPC’s insurance coverage and the environmental sensitivity maps they have supposedly compiled. It seems appealing to the courts is the only way to achieve some transparency," she added.

“For example, we are being asked to take their word that the company has adequate insurance. What does that even mean in this context? The Deepwater Horizon disaster took place while BP was trying to cap the exploratory well and it cost $65bn to clean up.

"We find it highly unlikely that BPC has insurance coverage to that level, and if they do, why won’t they simply come out and provide proof of coverage?”

Comments

Porcupine 1 week, 6 days ago

Shawn, thanks for speaking the truth to power. Your island roots have given you the backbone to see what's real. It takes courage to speak out, sometimes against the "business" community at large. More of us need to have the balls to stand up and speak for justice and environmentally sensible projects that allow Bahamians to watch their country grow and thrive. Our voices would be even stronger if our own government did not often stand in the way of these issues. Certainly we need more environmentally conscious and educated ministers as our representatives. Once again, thanks for speaking up.

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Bahama7 1 week, 6 days ago

Absolute nonsense.

The drilling is virtually in Cuba. Keep back slapping ... who’s going to pay off the trillions of debt we owe?

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Voltaire 1 week, 5 days ago

It is quite alarming that you people propose to drill up into our sea floor and don't even understand how the Gulf Stream works. FYI it is a current that heads north and east from your proposed drill site, not south. Kinda basic, really.

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Bahama7 1 week, 6 days ago

BP drilled in high pressure rocks ... very different to this little puddle off Cuba . Do your homework porky pie.

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Porcupine 1 week, 6 days ago

Does calling me porky pie substitute for your lack of understanding about what is causing our abrupt climate? On your way to genius? Or, do you really give a damn about the continued existence of The Bahamas. I don't get paid to fight for my cause. Do you?

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ScubaSteve 1 week, 5 days ago

Why oil????? That is a very, very backwards approach. Shall we also mine for coal? Or, how about putting up more landlines for phones? All of which are dying industries. We need to think forward not backwards. How about we as a country look at wind energy and/or solar energy?

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ColumbusPillow 1 week, 5 days ago

Please do not bring the sham of "climate change" into this. The continued existence of Bahamas is not threatened by drilling a 6" hole. No problem with the six holes that have already been drilled. Bahamas is very much threatened by the destruction of tourism, in no small part due to this incessant fear-mongering.

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Voltaire 1 week, 5 days ago

@Porcupine - these two (probably the same person) talking about the trillions in debt that "we" owe. Which trillions and what kinda "we"??? There is no "we". They are not Bahamian. These sleazy foreign smash and grab artists really think they are fooling someone. Bahama7 and ColumbusPillow - I denounce you! You are fakers and foreign agents trying to pass yourselves off as Bahamians. I would tell you that you are doing more damage to your cause than if you kept silent, but its too much fun to let you go on! haha

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Porcupine 1 week, 5 days ago

I agree. I've pointed out before that this is the only issue they comment on. Further, the only ones who you would not expect to be concerned about abrupt climate change in The Bahamas are either poorly educated or are people who don't live here, and/or have a financial stake in oil.

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tribanon 1 week, 5 days ago

No Bahamian should forget that Simon Potter and his other foreign shysters would not have gotten a foothold in our country without the sleazy slimey likes of James Smith providing fronting support for BPC's nefarious activities.

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Voltaire 1 week, 5 days ago

Lord, another BPC troll? The EIA is incomplete, inadequate and outdated. It references information from before 2015, as if BPC couldn't even be bothered to give an up to date accounting of what they intend to do to our environment. The document is fatally flawed and will be declared so by the Supreme Court of The Bahamas.

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Voltaire 1 week, 5 days ago

Hehe @Porcupine - it seems bush crack, Bahama7 and ColumbusPillow gone! Not that they would understand that. Now emerges "Disco", with a record of exactly ONE comment on this site ever. See above. BPC Englishmen - GIVE UP! Making fun of you is distracting us from our work!! You will never, ever drill up our sea floor. You have no idea what you are up against now.

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Bahama7 1 week, 4 days ago

Hello Voly - I am still here. The government confirmed the EIA was complete, protocol was followed according to more recent reports. Don’t hold back the country with these silly claims, let the investment and industry grow - but safely.

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Porcupine 1 week, 4 days ago

Safely? Do you have Bahamian children? Do you have more than a short term financial interest in The Bahamas?

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jamaicaproud 1 week, 3 days ago

We need to stop looking at this is a Non Bahamian or Bahamian thing. It really does not matter as these things have implications for everyone. Whether its oil drilling in Bahama land or Bauxite mining in Jamaica in a protected area, its all the same.

Even if Trillions and billions are earned, and even if there were to be(though not possible) zero environmental impact. There is the issue of dislocation. Moving whole communities and the dislocation and disruption to the social fabric. Exploration causes dislocation and dislocation causes forced migration to population centers and other countries. Few people benefit from the proceeds of these activities. and the wealth is always repatriated(that is if it ever arrives).

It really madness for a low lying archipelago to be going down this path.

Then there is the politics of this issue. The real reason for the conflict in countries in Venezuela, is not communism or stolen elections, its the fact that foreign entities would like to take the oil without paying for it, in other words drill and ship. Smaller countries with oil are normally bullied into this arrangement. Its like you having a mango orchard and a guy comes and pays you to pick your own mangoes. He pays for your labor but not the fruit.

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Voltaire 1 week, 2 days ago

Another anti-BPC group is taking up the fight to save The Bahamas. Bahama7, are you going to insult and abuse these young Bahamians too? - https://vimeo.com/480873129">https://vimeo.com/480873129

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