Local oil drilling opponents continue to call for drilling to be banned altogether, contending that this country would be financially liable for any oil that reaches the United States and other countries, should there be any type of spill.
Executive Director of the Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF) Casuarina McKinney-Lambert said yesterday during a virtual Our Islands Our Future (OIOF) forum that there has been considerable concern from The Bahamas’ neighbors, particularly Cuba to the south and the US.
“Florida and much of the Atlantic Coast have already banned offshore oil drilling in their waters and there are some serious implications from an insurance perspective for us in this.
“Thanks to the recent amendments to the Oil Pollution Act, it seems clear that BPC, and ultimately The Bahamas, could be held liable for an oil spill in Bahamian waters that impacts US trust resources. This poses a huge financial risk for The Bahamas.”
Dr. Ancilleno Davis, who also presented at the forum, said the country cannot engage in such risky activity in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and now COVID-19. He said oil drilling poses a huge liability to the country’s economy if something should go wrong.
Davis, an ecologist who was part of the national oil spill response task force for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, said oil could contaminate the shores of The Bahamas for more than 30 years if there was a spill, crippling tourism and fisheries.
“Who is going to pay Androsians for all the crab they will not eat for 32 years? Who is going to pay you for all the tours that you could have taken out to the west side of Andros for 32 years? Who’s going to pay the Bahamas National Trust staff to be out in the bush and the mangroves and the flats of the Andros West Side National Park for 32 years cleaning up oil? Nobody, definitely not BPC.
“As a Marine Stewardship Council-certified fishery, lobster in The Bahamas might not make it to any of those markets that we use now if we have an oil spill in our country.
“Our visitors that come to The Bahamas, they don’t know the difference between Andros’ west side, Cay Sal Bank and Acklins or Bimini, they just know there’s an oil spill in The Bahamas and you will not see any of that tourist money for the next three to five years, because they know the beaches are covered in oil and the island is covered in oil.”
Davis added that The Bahamas currently does not have the capacity or the supplies to deal with an oil spill.
“I don’t want to be dealing with an oil spill this year or next year or anytime in my lifetime,” he said. “I’ve seen what oil can do,” he said.
McKinney said she “vehemently” rejects the notion that BPC has a right to extend its exploration licenses for another three years and called for an all out ban on drilling in The Bahamas.