12 January 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Activists cite 6-month anniversary of license expiration, global carbon reduction imperative, need to sustain Blue Economy livelihoods
NASSAU – The Our Islands Our Future coalition renewed its call for a nationwide and permanent ban on oil drilling in The Bahamas. The letter delivered to Prime Minister Davis on January 12, also called for full transparency and accounting on the widely-criticized 2021 Perseverance-1 oil drilling debacle.
Through the letter, the coalition reiterated their previous requests for a full accounting of oil drilling licenses and fees. This includes unpaid amounts, as well as drilling reports and compliance data for the failed oil well drilled in early 2021 in Bahamian waters southwest of Andros Island. The Coalition also emphasized their previous, and as-yet-unfulfilled, calls for release of documents and full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Passed in 2017, FOIA provides increased public participation in government as well as accountability for government officials in dealing with issues of public health and safety, economic well-being, and environmental protection.
The Coalition detailed how the failed oil well drilled by Bahamas Petroleum Company (now Challenger Energy Group – CEG) put the entire country at risk and failed to generate any commensurate source of income for The Bahamas. They further pointed to the potential climate impacts of eventual oil production had the well verified commercial quantities of oil in the levels claimed by the company. “If fully exploited in quantities claimed by CEG, it would have exceeded the entire carbon footprint of The Bahamas and 18 other small Caribbean Island nations, over a period of twenty years,”said Chris Wilke of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Rather than feeding the climate crisis and flirting with planetary destruction, The Bahamas now has the opportunity to reject fossil fuel extraction, and build a green economy.”
“This foolish project has put our entire nation at risk,”said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert of BREEF. “There is little evidence that there was adequate insurance or oil spill response preparedness. Instead all we got were empty assurances, with no details.” According to recent CEG statements an insurance “top up” could be needed after-the-fact to pay for insuring risks otherwise not fully accounted for at the time of the drilling. “This is why we need to have a full account of the license fees, the compliance reports, quantity, and type of any toxic material discarded to the seafloor, the insurance certificates, and the level of available real response capability should an accident have occurred.”
According to recent CEG statements an insurance “top up” could be needed after-the-fact to pay for insuring risks otherwise not fully accounted for at the time of the drilling. This is cause for concern given that neither the level of insurance coverage nor the minimum required by government was ever made public. “The Bahamas oil drilling issue caught global attention. “The fact that, as stated by CEG, the insurer, Lloyd’s of London, may now be requesting a “top-up” payment for Well Control Insurance strikes me as unusual” Lindsay Keenan, European Coordinator of the Insure Our Future network said. “That, along with the fact that despite numerous requests no details of the insurance coverage have ever been provided, should raise red flags.”
The groups also called attention to the financial status and recent public statements by the company, which appear to distance themselves from potential future operations in The Bahamas. For example, CEG’s latest annual report does not discuss ongoing operations in the country, despite rosy promises earlier in the year, as well as apparent frustration by shareholders, and a 96% reduction in stock price since January 2021.
CEG had applied to renew its licenses in early 2021, but apparently hasn’t paid all license fees that are due to The Bahamas, and the government has said they won’t consider renewal until that is settled. The groups emphasized that it has now been 6 months since expiration, and in December 2021 the company announced a financial settlement with creditors to the level of an 84% reduction in the amount owed. “How can any company be expected to not cut corners in their drilling safety if they won’t pay their own contractors, much less the Bahamian people what is owed? How should we expect them to do the right thing and pick up the tab in the event of an oil spill?,” said Rashema Ingraham of Waterkeepers Bahamas. “It’s time to close this chapter once and for all, and declare a countrywide ban on oil drilling. If the government’s hands were tied before, they certainly are not now.”
The coalition also referenced the growing importance of climate action amid increasingly dire scientific projections, particularly in vulnerable nations, such as The Bahamas, which are threatened by sea-level rise, hurricanes, and damage to coral health.
Continued development of fossil fuels is exacerbating an already perilous situation. The Secretary General of The United Nations called the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released in August 2021, a “Code Red for Humanity.” Among other indicators, the report called for “deep and sustained reductions” in carbon-emitting fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal.
In June 2021, the International Energy Agency stated that any pathway to “net zero emissions” must include, “from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects.” The coalition implored the government to institute a lasting ban “instead of simultaneously filling the dual roles of climate victims and of a fossil fuel colony for investors,” stating The Bahamas has an opportunity to show real leadership.
“We are a country of leaders and we can continue to develop a sustainable Blue Economy to support Bahamian entrepreneurs that is based on a healthy environment that doesn’t include oil rigs,” continued McKinney-Lambert. “But it has to be real. It has to include a ban so we can put this issue to rest once and for all.”
“We need the certainty of a ban,” added Ingraham. “Unless we have a ban it will always be potentially on the table, dividing us.” The group vowed to help the government move forward with a ban, and to support growing a sustainable tourism economy for the benefit of all Bahamians.
Our Islands Our Future is a grassroots coalition of over 150 concerned businesses and organizations working toward a sustainable future for the Bahamas. More than 90,000 people have signed a petition calling for a permanent ban on oil drilling. BREEF, Waterkeepers Bahamas, and Waterkeeper Alliance serve as steering committee members of the coalition. www.ourislandsourfuture.org
Rashema Ingraham, Waterkeepers Bahamas (242) 821-2221 firstname.lastname@example.org
Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF email@example.com
Lori Harrison, Waterkeeper Alliance +1 (703) 216- 8565 firstname.lastname@example.org