Monday, August 13, 2012

The Christie-led government has remained noncommittal concerning oil drilling in The Bahamas

PM still committed to referendum on oil drilling

By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor

While a referendum on oil drilling is not currently the priority of the Bahamas government, Prime Minister Perry Christie told The Nassau Guardian he remains committed to such a referendum.

But he said “there would have to be serious indications that there is oil and natural gas in commercial quantities”.

“I committed my party to if we are going to have oil drilling in The Bahamas while we are in power, we will do so by seeking the support of the people of The Bahamas, so the answer is yes,” said the prime minister when asked recently by The Nassau Guardian whether the referendum was still planned.

He said,  “One of the dangers for The Bahamas is that concessions are being given to explore in the same area by the Cuban government and it would be a very interesting development as they are in a position to start exploring and digging a well before us.

“If they were to find a well then it makes it almost a compelling case for The Bahamas having to do the same thing.  And so, we’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and play crazy with it.

“But at this particular time we have to continue to assess where we are on that subject matter to see whether in fact the company (Bahamas Petroleum Company) is in a position to finance drilling because it’s a huge sum of money involved in that.

“This is not a $50 million or $60 million kind of enterprise.  This is a hugely expensive enterprise, particularly with the environmental safeguards that should be in place.

“And so, at some stage or the other the company will come forth to us to say,  ‘listen, we are ready to do the following things and this is the evidence we have that you have fossil fuels there’ and we’ll see.”

Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has committed to spudding its exploratory well in Bahamian waters by April 2013, although recent reports from the company indicate this drill date could be pushed back later in the year.

BPC is looking to bring on an operational and equity partner for the drill, The Nassau Guardian previously reported.

The Christie-led government has remained noncommittal concerning oil drilling in The Bahamas.

“We do believe that the Bahamian people ought to be consulted,” said Kenred Dorsett, the minister of the environment, previously. “Whether it goes the extent of a referendum, that will have to be determined based on the costs. That is a matter for the Cabinet to decide.”

Prior to the election in April, the previous government suspended BPC’s oil drilling licenses. There has been no formal announcement from the new government as to whether these licenses have been renewed.

The Christie administration has also committed to a referendum on gambling, which the prime minister has said will be called by the end of this year; and a constitutional referendum on citizenship matters, which the government intends to call before the end of the term.

Aug 13, 2012