The government will submit its proposed amendments to its heads of agreement with Oban Energies by today, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said yesterday.
“Between today and tomorrow, we hope to have those presented to the new leadership of Oban so that, before we meet, they will have notice of what the government wants, the amendments the government wants to make so that they can come prepared to the meeting to respond to those recommendations,” Foulkes said.
“In other words, we don’t want the meeting to be a waste of time. We want to have a meeting and actually make some progress.”
Last February, the government signed an agreement with Oban in what was later called a “ceremonial signing”.
The agreement was for a $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.
It was signed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place – a major point of contention for environmentalists and others.
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.
The EIA is completed but it hasn’t been made public.
Amid public uproar over the deal, the government announced that it will seek to amend it. A Cabinet subcommittee and technical advisory group was formed for that task.
Foulkes previously said the government wants to change environmental, economic and legal clauses.
When he spoke with The Nassau Guardian last week, Oban President Alexander Grikitis declined to reveal any findings of the EIA, saying he wanted to give the government an opportunity to read it first.
“It took us longer than we wanted to take originally because we went above and beyond and we had some meetings in between with the government, and they had some suggestions for us. We listened to those suggestions and we implemented [them], so I think they’ll find it very satisfactory and even more satisfactory than they originally thought,” Grikitis said.
He claimed the Oban project would have less of an impact on the environment than most hotels.
Foulkes, who heads the Cabinet subcommittee, said the government intends to meet with the leadership of Oban after it has forwarded its proposed amendments to the company.
The meeting was originally set for January 7, 2019, but conflicting schedules prevented it from happening, according to Foulkes.
“It is a strong possibility that we will have the meeting this month,” he said.
“I don’t want to give a date, and I don’t want to be firm on it. Our negotiation committee comprises of about eight persons and their committee comprises of about seven persons, so we have to make sure that everybody’s calendar is clear. It’s just a matter of finding a convenient date for everybody.”
He said the government was expected “to have a conference call with them today to go over possible dates”.
Last month, Oban announced that Grikitis has replaced Satpal Dhunna as president of the company.
Grikitis previously served as managing director of operations for Oban.
Yesterday, Foulkes said the government intends to complete a background check on Grikitis and Oban Chairman George Matelich.
“As you know, whenever there is a change in leadership in a company, the government would do background checks on the new leadership, and we were in the process of doing that since the announcement was made, which is what we do on all potential investments in the country,” he said.
The document signed during the so-called ceremonial signing last February was signed by then Oban Non-Executive Chairman Peter Krieger.
Not long after the signing, the media revealed that he had a fraudulent past. This fueled the Oban controversy even further.
It was also revealed that Krieger signed Dhunna’s name on the document, and not his own.
Grikitis confirmed last week that Krieger is no longer with Oban, although his in-laws are still shareholders.