Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that the government was legally obligated to extend the license for Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to undertake exploratory oil drilling in Bahamian waters or face “severe” damages.
“The government was obligated as a matter of law to extend the license by that period of time in which the previous government, but the same government of The Bahamas in any event, had ordered the licensee (BPC) to do nothing while we improve the environmental regulations and safeguards,” Bethel said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“So, for over two years they were told to do nothing; ‘do nothing until we fix the regulations’, alright.
“The license came up, it expired towards the end of last year and the question was whether or not we would extend it.
“We had a legal opinion done. It was very strongly worded and it was clear that the government was obliged to do it or incur liability for severe damages.”
BPC was first granted a license for exploratory oil drilling in 2007 by the Christie administration. The license was renewed by the same administration at least two more times since then.
BPC applied for environmental authorization from the Bahamas Environmental, Science and Technology Commission (BEST) in April 2018 as a prerequisite for oil drilling according to the Petroleum Act, 2016.
The company issued a statement on the approval of the extension last week, revealing that the government gave it permission to work toward drilling an exploratory oil well before the end of 2020.
No government official has made an official announcement on the approval.
Asked about the criticism over this fact, Bethel said, “I don’t think that it really matters who announces something like that.
“At the end of the day, the decision was made and, you know, it was a decision that in a sense had to be made.”
The company has now been seeking to drill for over a decade to no avail.
However, Bethel said he is confident that this time the company will drill.
“I have been made aware that they have already commissioned and have an agreement with a major oil company,” Bethel said.
“I cannot say who, but I know who.
“I have every confidence that they will drill…”
Bethel added, “The question is, ‘What do we as a people do if they find commercial quantities of oil?’.
“What does this Bahamas decide? That’s the fundamental question.”
Education: Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) 3rd Year