Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira yesterday fired back at critics who he said attacked him on social media after he said one goat and three birds were impacted by an oil spill at the Equinor facility on Grand Bahama.
The Norwegian oil company that owns the facility said five of its crude oil storage tanks were damaged during Hurricane Dorian earlier this month. The tops of the tanks were blown off and oil was scattered across the area.
On Tuesday, when asked about the impact on the environment, Ferreira said a team did aerial reconnaissance and found, on land, that one goat and three birds were impacted. He further noted that the oil was unable to penetrate the limestone rock and added that 6,000 barrels of crude oil was cleaned up at the facility.
But his comments about the “one goat and three birds” went viral on social media. Reportedly, members of the Cabinet even made light of the minister during Tuesday’s meeting.
During a tour of a bulkhead at Clifton Pier, Ferreira said, “They gave us an update and that’s what I did when I went to the Cabinet. I stopped and I spoke to reporters and I explained to them what we had done.
“I explained to them that Equinor had quadrupled their staff, but of course that wasn’t in the video clip. I explained to them that 6,000 barrels of oil had been recovered which equated to about 250,000 U.S. gallons of crude oil, but that wasn’t in the video clip. I explained that during the hurricane they had 1.8 million barrels of oil on site; of course, that wasn’t in the video clip.
“I explained that crews were on site ensuring the safety of the workers because they were doing ambient air testing…of course that wasn’t in the video clip that you saw. So, they were manipulating a video clip to attack my credibility. That’s a classic ad hominem attack, but we will not be deterred. We remain focused.”
The video clip the minister was referring to was the raw, unedited version of his comments to a particular question, that was posted on The Nassau Guardian’s Facebook page. The 37-second clip started with The Nassau Guardian asking him about the impact of the spill on the environment and ended when he finished answering that question. The minister was then asked if the recovered oil can be reused – which was not in that clip. When Our News aired the story that night, it featured the bulk of Ferreira’s general comments regarding the spill.
Environmentalists have criticized Ferreira’s comments for what they perceived as him making light of the oil spill in eastern Grand Bahama.
On Wednesday, Save the Bays Chairman Joe Darville said, “I wasn’t just shocked, I was astounded by his response. Mr. Ferreira is a friend of ours, he’s worked diligently with us in our environmental cases against people who offend our environment and I could not believe it.”
But yesterday, Ferreira said his words were portrayed in a way that “they were not intended to be”.
“I can understand environmentalists being misinformed if they based their opinion simply on a video clip that was designed to attack my credibility,” he said.
“But I can assure you that we are focused on this issue and we take it very, very seriously.”
Ferreira added, “Anyone can take a snip, a video clip and alter it. Anyone can cut and paste a video clip and turn my words into something that they were not intended to be. I was in the process of giving an update as to what happened at Equinor.
“For persons, for whatever agenda… [or] motive they have, they did what they did. What they did was they took a snippet when I gave an update on wildlife that was impacted. We got that from Equinor.”
As noted, Ferreira’s words were not edited in the clip.