The government’s refusal to release the environment impact assessment (EIA) for the controversial Oban Energies project seems “fishy”, Save The Bays (STB) Chairman Joseph Darville said yesterday.
Labour Minister Dion Foulkes, who chairs a Cabinet subcommittee charged with examining the deal, said last week the government will not release the EIA before amending the heads of agreement for a $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.
“With much consternation, we are learning that an EIA for the proposed Oban [Energies project] has been completed, but will not at this time be made public for scrutiny,” said Darville in a statement.
“This in itself sounds most fishy. Even an idiot, without the least understanding about our marine ecosystems, would realize that even the minimum incursion for establishing an oil refinery, storage facilities and mega ships birthing, even with the most sophisticated and modern machinery, would wreak havoc on some five ecosystems comprising the proposed areas.
“Presently, those areas are home to a multitude of varieties of sea life; all will be wiped out with the very first application of dredging machinery.
“…If we are in the very least concerned about leaving an environmentally sound and safe country for future generations, we must cease forthwith from selling their birthright for the proverbial pot of porridge.
“It would take one accident, explosion or oil spill to further destroy the area, as well as the entire extent of the south shore of Grand Bahama.
“The putrid smells from the refineries will forever create health problems, resulting in deaths across the entire island.”
Darville joins Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, who last week called on the government to publicize the EIA.
Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Executive Director Eric Carey has said the BNT will not support the project, even if a new heads of agreement is drafted.
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis has urged the government to abandon the project altogether.
The government signed an agreement with Oban Energies in February.
The agreement was signed without an EIA in place – a major point of contention for environmentalists and others.
The current heads of agreement with Oban states that the government does not have an option to kill the deal based on anything the EIA concludes, but must work with Oban to address any concerns raised by the study.
In March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted that his government made a series of missteps regarding the deal in its haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama.
As a result, a subcommittee and technical advisory group was charged with examining the agreement in hopes of increasing the economic benefits for Bahamians and environmental protections.
The government’s negotiating team is expected to meet with Oban’s principals on January 7, according to Foulkes.