THE Bahamas National Trust has declared it is “categorically opposed to oil exploration in The Bahamas.”
“The BNT stands with every Bahamian speaking out against the proposed oil exploration in our ocean nation,” the organisation said in a statement recently.
The Bahamas Petroleum Company will begin its oil exploration work in the southern Bahamas before Christmas.
BPC has argued that it has reduced the environmental risks surrounding its first exploratory well to an irreducible minimum. It says it has obtained all necessary approvals, including an environmental authorisation and go-ahead for its environmental impact assessment and environmental management plan.
The BNT nonetheless said: “Bahamian communities rely on healthy ocean ecosystems to support jobs in fishing, recreation, and tourism. The oil industry’s track record in often failing to protect the environment effectively makes such developments too big a risk to be allowed in our fragile ocean nation.
“An oil spill can irreversibly damage our oceans, threaten our tourism industry, and our very way of life. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster proves that no amount of reward from oil drilling is worth the risks of a potential disaster.
“The proposed initial well by BPC is incredibly close to the Cay Sal Bank, one of the most ecologically productive and economically important marine systems in the country.
“The Cay Sal Bank Marine Protected Area (MPA) was declared a protected area by the Bahamas government in September 2015. The Cay Sal MPA protects thriving marine life inclusive of commercially important species, most notably one of the last remaining viable populations of the queen conch. This large MPA also protects crucial marine mammal habitats, coral reefs, seagrass meadows and open ocean ecosystems.”
BNT Executive Director Eric Carey said the country risks turning its coastal tourist destination into an oil nation.
“The nation’s tourism industry relies on clean, swimmable waters and healthy ocean ecosystems to thrive. Oil drilling and exploration threaten clean coastal economies,” the BNT’s statement said.
“Furthermore, The Bahamas is known to be one of the most vulnerable nations on the planet to the impending impacts of climate change, which is now recognised as an existential threat to The Bahamas. The country, our people, and our way of life could disappear if we are not successful as a global community in reversing the factors of a changing climate.
“The Bahamas has stood in the presence of the United Nations, demanding urgent action to combat climate change. We cannot therefore cry out to the world that our country is being severely threatened by climate change, and still allow the exploration for fossil fuels, one of the main drivers of climate change on the planet.
“The country would be sending a careless signal of hypocrisy to the world. The benefits of fossil fuels are finite and insignificant compared to the cost of global climate change. We should not compound the damage of increased storm activity and sea levels due to global climate change with the risks associated with oil exploration. Drilling for oil would require us to ignore the damage of Hurricane Dorian and other storms. We would be overlooking the harm done to Grand Bahama in the Equinor spill. We would be turning a blind eye to obvious risks to our own well-being.”
This comes after the 750-foot Stena IceMAX drillship has sailed from the Canary Islands en route to Grand Bahama in preparation to drill an exploratory oil well off the coast of West Andros.
The ship sailed last week in the face of notification that attorneys are in the process of filing judicial review proceedings, asking the Supreme Court to scrutinise BPC’s environmental approvals process. Among the points raised is the absence of a proper public consultation process as mandated by law.
Activists from Greenpeace protested the drillship before it left port in the Canary Islands last week.