The government will ensure that Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) goes through the necessary environmental processes in order to undertake exploratory oil drilling in Bahamian waters, Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira said.
Ferreira’s comments were an attempt to quell concerns from environmental groups, such as Save the Bays, reEarth and Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF), which are against drilling.
“We are always willing to sit down and discuss any issue with any non-government organization, but the fact of the matter is this was an existing license that we were obliged to extend,” Ferreira said.
“I think the attorney general laid it out and I think he laid it out well.
“We had an opinion; there was an existing license. We took legal advice. As a result of that legal advice, we had to extend it and now it’s been extended.”
He noted that, “BPC will submit an environmental impact assessment which will have to go through the process of having the permits issued by the BEST commission.”
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.
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 Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST) in April 2018 as a prerequisite for oil drilling according to the Petroleum Act, 2016.
Asked about the location of the exploratory drilling, Ferreira explained, “I think they would be best suited to answer the question as to where will they do it, because they have to drill a spud well.
“Of course, you know that whole process is very expensive and so they will make that determination.
“I’m sure that will be a business decision based on scientific evidence that they would have assessed by their geologist within the company.”
In a message to environmentalists, Ferreira said, “We are always ready to continue and maintain further dialogue.
“We want to keep it a two-way relationship, where they can speak, we can speak and we can come to an agreeable position of what’s in the best interest for the environment, what’s in the best interest of government and of course the best interest of the people of The Bahamas.”