Despite pending negotiations with the principals of Oban Energies, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government is still trying to determine if it wants to proceed with the $5.5 billion project.
Speaking to reporters in Grand Bahama on Wednesday, Turnquest explained that future developments in the East Grand Bahama area are now factoring into the decision-making process.
One year after the government held a ceremonial signing for the contentious oil refinery and storage facility to be built in East Grand Bahama, there has been no significant movement on the project.
Since the signing, the entire project has been shrouded in controversy with unanswered questions.
Asked about the building anxiousness surrounding the deal, Turnquest said, “I don’t think that people should be [anxious].
“The fact of the matter is that the government has taken a step back to look at this thing very holistically from the point of view of the economic development opportunity and what it will contribute to the island, whether it is something that we want to proceed with in terms of the kind of installation versus maybe considering the touristic elements that are now developing on the island, whether we want to focus more on that.
“So again this is going through a look from both sides to determine what is best for the island, what is best for Oban and for us.
“And so, we don’t want to rush that process because again we want to make sure that we get it right and I think the prime minister and the minister who is leading that negotiation [have] said over and over that we will not rush the process, that we will make sure we cross the T’s and dot the I’s to ensure that there’s no question about what we do in respect to the project.”
Asked whether the project will happen, Turnquest said, “I can’t answer that, unfortunately.”
The government signed an agreement with Oban Energies in February 2018 for an oil refinery and storage facility.
The agreement was signed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in place.
Several environmentalists and others chastised the government over this critical clause. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) said there was no scenario where it would support the deal, noting the overall risk is too great, particularly to the neighboring national parks.
Following weeks of being lambasted and a firestorm of headlines on the matter, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted that the government made a series of missteps regarding the deal, in its haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama, and as a result ordered a subcommittee and technical advisory group to examine the deal in hopes of renegotiating.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who heads that subcommittee, said they are still trying to schedule a meeting with Oban principals to move forward with negotiations.
He also noted that the government has yet to submit its amendments to the heads of agreement to Oban’s principals because “we had a glitch with our computer system”.