Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said yesterday the government hopes to complete talks with Oban Energies for an oil refinery and storage facility on Grand Bahama within two to three meetings.
The government decided to renegotiate a previously signed controversial deal due to critical concerns over various clauses.
“Well I foresee at least two or three meetings,” Foulkes said.
“… I do not want to prejudge how the talks are going to go. We want to make quite extensive changes to the heads of agreement.”
When asked which aspects of the heads of agreement the government wished to renegotiate, he said, “We’re looking primarily at three major categories: The economic provisions, the environmental provisions and the legal provisions. I do not want to get into the details until we have opportunities to present our terms to Oban so that they can have an opportunity to respond.”
The government signed the original agreement with Oban Energies on February 19, 2018 in what was later called a ceremonial signing.
On Monday, Foulkes told The Nassau Guardian the government’s meeting with Oban, which was scheduled for January 7, was postponed because “one of the principals was unable to come in”.
Yesterday, he said the government has yet to “fix a date for that meeting”.
“We’re looking for two possible dates this month, toward the end of the month,” Foulkes said.
“But if not the end of January, we’ll have our negotiation committee at the end of February.”
Loren Klein, a consultant in the Office of the Attorney General, heads the government’s negotiation committee, Foulkes said.
The head negotiator for Oban Energies is Alexander Grikitis.
When asked why the government continues to push for the deal while also moving for the use of renewable energy, Foulkes said, “We realize that the whole future for the generation of energy is a green-based template. We’re aware of that, but we know that that’s going to take time.
“To move from a fuel-based supply of energy, basically fossil fuel, to a green-based renewable energy, you’re looking at 15, 10, maybe 15 years before that is completed. In the meanwhile, we have to supply energy to our consumers.”
The agreement with Oban was signed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place – a major point of contention for environmentalists and others.
In March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted that his government made a series of missteps regarding its deal with Oban Energies in its haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama.
The current heads of agreement with Oban states that the government does not have an option to kill the deal based on anything the EIA concludes, but must work with Oban to address any concerns raised by the study.
Foulkes said he did not want to comment on whether the government would walk away from the deal if its conditions are not met.
“It’s a discussion for the government, for the Cabinet of The Bahamas to make,” he said.
“If the talks are unsuccessful, it would be a decision for the Cabinet to make.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice