By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Environmental activists say they are "not reassured in the slightest" by the promised presence of the Government's watchdogs on Bahamas Petroleum Company's drilling ship.
Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) executive director, told Tribune Business in messaged replies to this newspaper's questions that she was taking little comfort that representatives from Black & Veatch, the Government consultants who assessed BPC's environmental submissions, will be overseeing the 45-60 day drilling.
"It does not reassure us in the slightest that the Government will have environmental consultants on the drill ship," she said. "We are painfully aware that all offshore drilling pollutes and there is no such thing as safe oil exploration. When you drill, you spill."
BPC, in announcing that the Stena IceMAX drill ship is poised to leave the Canary Islands to head for The Bahamas aid of the December 15 drilling start date, said: "BPC has formally notified the Bahamian Department of Environmental Protection & Planning (DEPP) as to the precise well location, as well as the specific details and technical specifications in respect of the Stena IceMAX drill ship, and has obtained the DEPP's consent to same.
"BPC is currently working with the Government of The Bahamas' appointed third-party expert adviser, international environmental consultants Black & Veatch, on a number of technical items relating to the Perseverance One drilling programme.
"As agreed with the Government of The Bahamas, one or more Black & Veatch experts will be stationed onboard the Stena IceMAX during drilling operations, and will oversee the entire drilling programme, with a specific mandate to observe and report on specific tasks, activities and operations, including observing the baseline seafloor survey and testing of drilling fluids to ensure compliance with mandated safety requirements; oversight of environmental compliance activities during drilling activities and thereafter during decommissioning and abandonment activities; and monitoring drilling practices, procedures and activities to assure compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP)."
Ms McKinney-Lambert, meanwhile, argued that the Our Islands, Our Future coalition, of which BREEF is a prominent member, had not left its threatened legal action to halt BPC's plans too late. "We do not feel that it is too late. Far from it," she asserted.
"We feel that there were certain fundamental flaws in the process, including a lack of proper consultation at various stages, which means that BPC's approvals need to be revisited. Its EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is deficient and also needs to be revisited. It is not us who are late; it is BPC which is moving prematurely to drill."
Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeeper Bahamas, another Our Islands, Our Future member, added: "We believe the process was fundamentally flawed. We do not think those approvals were granted correctly. Certainly they were granted in the absence of proper consultation."