As Cabinet ministers continue to mull over the $5.5 billion Oban Energies deal, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has admitted he has concerns about the company’s inexperience, but added that Grand Bahama residents are “overwhelmingly” in support of the project.
Oban Energies is seeking to develop an oil storage and refinery facility in East Grand Bahama.
Asked whether he had any concerns that the company had no history in the business, Turnquest said, “Again, those are legitimate concerns.” When pressed further on if he as a minister had concerns, he said, “I do certainly, as the revelations come along, yes.”
Turnquest made the comments while appearing as a guest on the Star 106.5 FM talk show “The Hit Back with Nahajah Black” on Wednesday.
The Oban deal has been shrouded in controversy since the government signed a ceremonial heads of agreement with the company’s Non-Executive Chairman Peter Krieger nearly a year and a half ago.
The agreement was signed without an environmental impact assessment in place, which was a major point of contention for local environmentalists.
“That is a very legitimate concern that was raised and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m saying to ignore the concerns about the environment. And I think there are some good interventions that were made by the people, by the environmentalists and those who would have raised concerns about this project. Very legitimate and I think very deserved because I think there were things that we did not nail down, that we certainly did not communicate as well and maybe didn’t even put onto paper,” Turnquest said.
“What was being negotiated was the heads of agreement, it wasn’t the final agreement, it can change. One of the things that was necessary was an environmental study.”
Turnquest, who is also the member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama, said the deal is still on the table because his “people in Grand Bahama overwhelmingly support it”.
“Oban was scheduled to be in East Grand Bahama where I happen to be the representative, and I can tell you I am confident sitting here today representing those people who ask me, ‘What are you guys doing? We want the project,’” he said.
“So, we hear the environmentalists, we hear people from other islands, meanwhile we’re sitting down twiddling our thumbs on land that is not being utilized. But as a member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama, the residents in the area say there’s hardly a weekend that goes by and they don’t ask me, ‘What are we going to do?”’
Last year Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted that his government made a series of missteps regarding its deal with Oban Energies in its haste to boost the economy of Grand Bahama.
Still, Turnquest said there is no guarantee the government will move forward with the deal.
“There were legitimate issues that were brought to light subsequent to the signing. Those issues have been addressed. They’ve been ventilated, they continue to be ventilated to ensure that if this does come – and at this point there is no guarantee – but if this comes back it is fully vetted,” he said.
“All of the issues that have been raised since that time have been fully considered and whatever deal comes is a solid deal if we were to move forward.”