Environmentalists object to offshore drilling in The Bahamas

Environmentalists have written to The Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis expressing their opposition to the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s planned offshore drilling, which should begin next week.

Recently, BPC had indicated that it contracted the UK-registered Stena IceMAX drillship to begin work on the Perseverance No. 1 oil well in the southern Bahamas around December.

Risks to marine life

However, according to a Miami Herald article written last month, Oceana and several conservation organisations, including Waterkeeper Alliance and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, have sent a letter to Minnis requesting that he cancel the oil exploration licences of BPC and permanently ban offshore drilling in the islands.

Prime Minister of The Bahamas Hubert Minnis (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

In the letter, the environmentalists argue that the drilling poses a series of potential threats to marine ecosystems in the Caribbean and in Florida, and note that the risks involved in oil drilling greatly outweigh the potential benefits to the Bahamian people. Instead, the environmentalists encourage the Government to continue pursuing tourism as a key source of revenue.

“Oil exploration is a very dangerous business that poses huge risks to coastal communities in the Bahamas and in Florida,” Diane Hoskins, a campaign director for conservation non-profit Oceana, said.

(Photo: Oceana)

“Let’s not forget that Deepwater Horizon was drilling an exploratory well,” she continued.

In 2010, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 rig workers and causing oil to gush from the seafloor for 87 days. As more than 200 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf, it killed tens of thousands of birds, sea turtles, dolphins and fish, which washed up on 1,300 miles of shoreline, from Texas to Florida.

The explosion of Deepwater Horizon led to the worst environmental disaster in the US. (Photo: safety4sea.com)

The environmental advocates also lament the lack of a cumulative impact analysis, which, they say, is “a basic component of any Environmental Impact Assessment.” The EIA for this particular exploratory drilling project “is at times referring to a single exploratory well, and at times a series of three exploratory wells, but it completely fails to show how it relates to a full drilling program that includes production and pumping of oil at multiple locations, as well as storage and transfer of crude oil from producing wells”.

Court proceedings

Earlier today BPC informed online publication Offshore Engineer that it is in receipt of an application to the Supreme Court of The Bahamas for a judicial review of the decision taken by the Government of The Bahamas in February 2020 to grant Environmental Authorisation for BPC’s Perseverance #1 well.

The oil exploration company revealed that it was a group of environmental activists who filed the application, though it did not name them specifically.

“The respondent to the application is the Government of The Bahamas. The applicants have specifically sought to exclude BPC from being heard in relation to this matter. BPC understands that the Government of The Bahamas will oppose the application, and BPC intends to apply to the Court to be heard as a person affected and to oppose the application,” the company explained.

BPC said it believes that given the schedule it has to begin drilling before the end of 2020, the Supreme Court will listen to the application in an expeditious manner.