US business groups rail against Bahamas oil drilling

Concern that oil spill in The Bahamas would ‘absolutely devastate Miami’s coastal economy’

Our Islands, Our Future (OIOF), which through the local courts is challenging the legitimacy of Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) right to drill its exploratory well, now has the voices of the business community of South Florida and the US Eastern Seaboard added to the cacophony of calls for oil drilling in The Bahamas to be stopped.

A press statement issued by OIOF yesterday said comments from various business leaders were received after Miami-based marketing company Ballyhoo Media – which has partnered with the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), Oceana and OIOF – ran floating billboards on Miami Beach calling for support of a petition to get Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to immediately stop oil drilling in The Bahamas.

The OIOF statement contains the words of Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Libbin, who voiced concerns that an oil spill in The Bahamas would “absolutely devastate Miami’s coastal economy”.

“The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was from an exploratory well which is the same type being pursued in The Bahamas,” Libbin is quoted as saying in the statement.

“We encourage all South Florida business owners and our government leaders to ask the Bahamian prime minister to recognize our shared interest in protecting our economy and ban dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.”

OIOF stated that business leaders on the US Eastern Seaboard who agree with the United States’ federal ban on offshore drilling in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are now alarmed that a well is being drilled so close to Florida’s coast.

“Experts predict a Bahamian oil disaster could impact the Atlantic Seaboard and result in severe effects in the neighboring Caribbean Sea,” OIOF noted in its statement.

The Miami Chamber’s Chairman Robin Jacobs said in the statement that his group has long been in opposition to offshore drilling, which they contend could severely damage the area’s tourism economy.

According to the OIOF statement, the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce comprises a majority of the businesses that operate in Miami Beach and its surrounding areas.

President of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC) Tom Kies said in the statement that those organizations have worked “tirelessly” to protect America’s Atlantic Coast from oil drilling, “only to have our progress threatened by decisions from our neighbors in The Bahamas”.

“If we are remotely serious about protecting Florida and the Carolinas from oil spills, we must ask The Bahamas to stop oil exploration immediately,” Kies said.

OIOF noted that BAPAC leads the fight to ensure the long-term health and economic vitality of the United States’ Atlantic Seaboard.

“Since BAPAC’s formation in 2016, it has received the support of over 42,000 business and 500,000 commercial fishing families for the organization’s efforts to protect the US Atlantic Coast from offshore oil/gas exploration and drilling,” the statement pointed out.

Chief Marketing Officer of Ballyhoo Media Tyler Zlatlin said the protest against oil drilling is their way of supporting their own community as well as The Bahamas.

“South Florida and the Bahamas are close neighbors and share many mutually beneficial relationships,” said Zlatlin. 

“Unfortunately, when it comes to offshore oil drilling in the narrow waters between our shores, we also share the danger of huge destruction to our marine ecology and local economy. Ballyhoo Media’s partnership with BREEF, Oceana and Our Islands, Our Future is meant to sound the alarm for our community and politicians on this urgent issue.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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