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Oil opponents: BPC gives us ‘no choice’

photo

Attorney Fred Smith QC

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

OIL exploration opponents last night said they have “no choice” but to apply for an injunction halting Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) activities as its drilling ship began its voyage to this nation.

Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, told Tribune Business that the Our Islands, Our Future coalition would seek the Supreme Court’s intervention as early as this week after the 750-foot Stena IceMAX drill ship left the Canary Islands en route to The Bahamas ahead of the planned December 15 drilling start date.

The coalition, which has placed on its website a map tracking the vessel’s movements as it begins its journey across the Atlantic, said legal action was now inevitable given both the Stena IceMAX’s departure and BPC’s failure to respond to its request to provide an undertaking that all activities will cease while Judicial Review proceedings are underway.

Mr Smith, who is Our Islands, Our Future’s lead attorney, said: “Given that they [BPC] have not heeded our respectful request that they confirm they will not drill, I think the Coalition has no choice but to ask the courts to intervene. Therefore we will likely have to apply for the injunction. “We’re going for the injunction, yes. Unfortunately we have to. It is shocking that BPC would ignore the letter that we sent, in which we warned them that legal action is imminent, and would result if they and the Government failed to stop their drilling intentions.”

Mr Smith said his Our Islands, Our Future client was not just concerned about the possibility of an oil spill from BPC’s Perseverance One well, which is to be spudded some 90 miles west of Andros close to The Bahamas’ maritime border with Cuba, but also the fluids that will be used in the drilling process and the carbons and other potentially harmful substances/sediments that may be released.

“The gulf stream goes north between Florida and The Bahamas,” he added. “This is a very risky environmental game that BPC is playing at the potential cost of our billion dollar tourism industry.

“It’s not a domestic issue. The environment is a global phenomenon. It doesn’t respect national boundaries artificially drawn on beautiful maps. This experiment, because that is what it is, to find oil is a potential environmental threat in The Bahamas and to the south-east Florida coast.”

BPC, though, has repeatedly argued that it has reduced the environmental risks surrounding its first exploratory well to an irreducible minimum. It added that it has obtained all necessary approvals, such as the Environmental Authorisation (EA), and go-ahead for its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EM), in compliance with Bahamian and international standards.

Robertha Quant, BPC’s environmental scientist, in recent written responses to Tribune Business questions, said: “The overall process of the EIA, EMP and EA preparation has spanned almost a decade – many thousands of man hours, including that of employees of BPC, the company’s senior management and Board, as well as environmental experts and various international consultancies, and independent third-party reviews.”

Describing a full year of “man hours” as equivalent to 1,600 hours, she said: “In aggregate, our estimate is therefore that a total of approximately five full-time ‘man-years’ of work went into the most recent EIA/EMP preparation.” This took place between 2018 and 2020, with BPC also refuting other environmental and financial concerns raised by critics.

Judicial Review proceedings typically challenge whether the Government, statutory body or local government council has followed the legally stipulated process in issuing permits/ approvals to a developer. They also focus on whether these permissions have been given rationally, and in accordance with a body’s legal power.

And Mr Smith yesterday argued that, by changing to the Stena IceMAX drill ship, BPCV had requested an alteration be made to its EA.

This, the QC said, had brought the application within the remit of the newly-passed Environmental Planning and Protection Act and the stipulation that all changes be subject to further consultation.

“It is not as simple as they think,” he said of BPC. Any injunction application will likely be heavily contested by both the Government and BPC before the Supreme Court, with the latter said by sources to be represented by Graham, Thompson & Co and Sean McWeeney QC, the former attorney general.

Casuarina McKinney- Lambert, the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation’s (BREEF) executive director, and a prominent coalition member, told this newspaper: “We hope BPC will do the right thing and realise this is not the way to go. We’re encouraging people to make their voices heard, sign the petition, send a lot of letters and contact their elected officials.

“We’re all very opposed to it, all 45,000 people that have signed our petition, and we have over 100 organisations that have joined the Coalition locally and internationally. There are lots of people in The Bahamas and around the world that are very concerned about this.

“People are very concerned about the environmental aspects but also there are the economic aspects and the risk The Bahamas can be bearing, particularly for tourism and fisheries. It is the mainstay of our economy and we don’t want to throw that away.”

Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeepers Bahamas and member of the steering committee for Our Islands, Our Future, also voiced concerns about the safety record of the Stena IceMAX and its owner, Stena Drilling.

“More than a week before the ship sailed, we advised BPC to cease and desist from mobilising until the courts have an opportunity to consider the matter, and warned that a decision to move forward regardless will be undertaken at their own risk,” said Ms Ingraham.

“We hold that many things about the approvals process were improper, including the decision to switch from an approved ship to the IceMAX without conducting proper consultation.

Mrs McKinney-Lambert added: “We are convinced that if we continue to stand strong together we can stop BPC and prevent any future oil drilling in these pristine, ecologically significant waters.”

She urged supporters to continue speaking out in The Bahamas and internationally, “and make it clear that we refuse to sacrifice our future and that of generations of Bahamians and others around the world”.

Comments

Voltaire 2 years ago

Haha you don't even know who that website belongs to do you? Or do you normally share the propaganda of sex traffickers and pedophiles?

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Voltaire 2 years ago

Bahama7 is Peter Nygard!!

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Voltaire 2 years ago

See, a Bahamian would understand the context and never share that site

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Porcupine 2 years ago

What does this have to with anything? Oil drilling in The Bahamas? Grasping at straws?

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Voltaire 2 years ago

It means they are getting desperate. Trying to shoot the messenger because they can't handle the message

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DWW 2 years ago

someone is a sore loser. Nygard took a knife to a gun fight thats all

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Voltaire 2 years ago

A Bahamian would immediately understand the context and would never share that site Bahama7

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Bahama7 2 years ago

Porky pie - you are clutching at straws with your new friend Voly.

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Voltaire 2 years ago

Bro, you just shared Peter Nygard's website. Time to make up a new BPC troll identity, cuz this one is blown. Unless this is the kind of association you want for your company.

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DWW 2 years ago

i'm still wondering how much the bahamian people will actually get out of this deal? is it half the profits? 10% of gross? Why is the Bahamas still stuck in this mindset that everything has to be secret and that you aren't getting ahead unless your screwing someone else over. We can all benefit and be our brothers keeper at teh same time. Yeah, i'm an idealist.

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Voltaire 2 years ago

Its a secret because its a bad deal for us. Dog eat our lunch. Otherwise, they would be shouting it from the hilltops! If Minnis could use this to get reelected, he would. Obviously, the deal is not worth the paper it is written on.

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Bahama7 2 years ago

Voly - it’s all there on the Bpc and Government website. Don’t be lazy, do some reading and find the answers.

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Proguing 2 years ago

Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, a founder of OPEC, complained in 1975: “I call petroleum the devil's excrement. It brings trouble...Look at this locura—waste, corruption, consumption, our public services falling apart. And debt, debt we shall have for years.”. And this was before the socialist took power.

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