The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) does not have an individual assigned to the physical oversight of Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) test well works, however, it will be making spot checks and inspections during the drilling process, DEPP Director Rochelle Newbold told Guardian Business, adding that anyone interested in viewing the documents associated with BPC’s project can find them on the DEPP’s website, with additional information at its office.
With environmental activists threatening legal action to stop BPC’s drilling process, claiming that the company’s environmental impact assessment process has not been completed, given that it had to make amendments when it changed the ship it intends to use for drilling, Newbold said all information is readily available to anyone.
She added that government agencies – especially where the environment is concerned – have made sure the protection of the environment during the drilling for petroleum is as robust as possible.
She said while DEPP does not have someone on staff who has the technical know-how to be stationed on the drillship when it arrives, the government has contracted international environmental consultants Black and Veatch to monitor the processes on behalf of the country.
“While we will be making spot checks and inspections relative to the work going on at the rig, there will be an individual who is qualified and experienced to understand and know whether or not the operators of the rig are operating within international standards,” said Newbold.
“They will be there. We will be coming in and doing checks, but there is no value in us sitting there and we don’t know. That’s why we engage people who do know, so that they can provide feedback to the government and take action.”
Newbold said the public is invited to ask questions with regard to BPC’s project and can come in to look through the associated documentation themselves.
“The documentation for the project isn’t easy to go through because, of course, it is a significant undertaking and we want to make sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed,” she said.
“So there are volumes and volumes of things you’d have to go through in order to get an understanding of what is being presented. What we try to do is put a very concise document that aides the general public in its evaluation.
“There are boxes and boxes, maps upon maps. We want to make sure that when we look at that issue from an environmental perspective, it is something that we can say we have done our due diligence.”
With regard to opposition to the drilling, Newbold said every Bahamian has the right to take the government to task for its decisions. However, the basis for the opposition has to be knowledgeable and informed.