By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
THERE is growing opposition to oil drilling in The Bahamas as business leaders in the United States have called on government leaders to put a stop to it.
Advocacy group, Our Islands, Our Future, has said US businesses are “alarmed” at the possibility of new oil drilling allowed as close as 50 miles off Florida’s coast considering the US federal government’s ban of offshore drilling in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
“Experts predict a Bahamian oil disaster could impact the Atlantic seaboard, and result in severe effects in the neighbouring Caribbean Sea,” the group stated.
According to Jerry Libbin, president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce: “An oil spill in The Bahamas could absolutely devastate Miami’s coastal economy. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was from an exploratory well which is the same type being pursued in The Bahamas. We encourage all South Florida business owners and our government leaders to ask the Bahamian prime minister to recognise our shared interest in protecting our economy and ban dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.”
Robin Jacobs, the chamber’s board chair, added: “The Chamber’s board of governors has a long-standing position in opposition to offshore drilling that could impact the coast of South Florida and severely damage our fragile tourism economy.”
Meanwhile Tom Kies, president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of the Business Alliance Protection of the Atlantic (BAPAC), highlighted the efforts against drilling only for that to be “threatened” by The Bahamas.
“We have worked tirelessly to protect the Atlantic Coast and our coastal economy from destructive drilling, only to have our progress threatened by decisions from our neighbours in The Bahamas,” he said.
“If we are remotely serious about protecting Florida and the Carolinas from oil spills, we must ask The Bahamas to stop oil exploration immediately.”
Tyler Zlatlin, chief marketing officer for Miami-based marketing firm Ballyhoo Media, said: “South Florida and The Bahamas are close neighbours and share many mutually beneficial relationships. Unfortunately, when it comes to offshore oil drilling in the narrow waters between our shores, we also share the danger of huge destruction to our marine ecology and local economy.
“Ballyhoo Media’s partnership with BREEF, Oceana, and Our Islands Our Future is meant to sound the alarm for our community and politicians on this urgent issue. We see this as performing a service for our own community as well as supporting our friends who are fighting this in The Bahamas.”
These comments come after Ballyhoo Media ran massive floating billboards up and down Miami Beach, alerting Floridians of this impending threat and encouraging tourists to sign the www.StopBahamasOilDrilling.com petition.
In December, a letter signed by several members of the United States Congress addressed to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira urged them to reconsider the oil drilling agreement with Bahamas Petroleum Company.
BPC began drilling an exploratory well in December.