“Oil exploration is a very dangerous activity that poses enormous risks to coastal communities in the Bahamas and Florida,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign manager for the conservation nonprofit Oceana. “Let’s not forget that Deepwater Horizon was drilling an exploration well.”
Oceana and several conservation organizations including the Waterkeeper Alliance and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust sent a letter to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis earlier this month opposing the planned drilling.
Among the concerns expressed in the letter, the organizations cite the lack of a cumulative impact assessment, which they say is “a basic element of any environmental impact assessment”.
The organizations say that the EIA for this particular exploratory drilling project “sometimes refers to a single exploratory well, and sometimes to a series of three exploratory wells, but it absolutely does not show how it relates to a drilling program. complete which includes production. and the pumping of oil from multiple locations, as well as the storage and transfer of crude oil from production wells. “
The Bahamian Department of Environment and Housing did not respond to requests for comment on questions raised by environmental impact assessment advocates of the Perseverance No. 1 well drilling project.
Although President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this year banning oil drilling off the coast of Florida, advocates say exploration areas in the Bahamas are just too close. They also say the archipelago is on the way to hurricanes and tropical storms that will only intensify as a result of climate change.
“Please let the Bahamas continue to be known for their pristine waterways and commitment to a sustainable economy, not dirty fossil fuels or another tragic, uncontrolled and economically devastating oil disaster,” the organizations wrote in the letter to Minnis.
An exploration well is a first step in verifying the size and volume of oil deposits in a basin or production area. BPC stated that Perseverance No. 1 is a “potentially basin-opening well, with the kind of scale and associated upside exposure seldom offered outside the oil majors.” The company said earlier this year that preliminary seismic tests showed the region has potential oil reserves of more than 2 billion barrels.
As the Bahamas struggle to recover from damage caused by Hurricane Dorian, the monster storm that hit parts of the archipelago with high winds of 185 mph and storm surges of 25 feet in September of the year last, oil production has become a means of stimulating the economy. activity and create jobs.
The storm caused approximately $ 3.4 billion in damage, according to a November 2019 report by the Inter-American Development Bank. The economy’s growing debt and still high unemployment were exacerbated by Dorian, the IDB said. The COVID-19 crisis has further depressed economic activity in the islands, as the abrupt halt in tourism has led to rising unemployment and falling GDP to record levels.
The argument for economic diversification by investing in the oil and gas industry is gaining strength, especially after ExxonMobil discovered large offshore reserves near Guyana in 2015. Caribbean countries like Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada have increased their efforts to test their basins in recent years. Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago already produce oil from offshore fields, and the Dominican Republic last year held its first round of licensing for oil exploration contracts.
Simon Potter, CEO of BPC, said oil and gas exploration can be “economically transformative” for the Bahamas.
“He could ultimately contribute billions of dollars in royalty income to the National Treasury, at a time when the dual impact of the recent hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard hit by most Bahamians,” he said in a statement.