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The Oil Fiasco – The government of the Bahamas must stop its duplicitous and deceitful fairy-tale on the benefits of oil for this country

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Government in the Dark – Bahamas for Bahamians

On the one hand they TALK about preserving the Bahamas. On the other hand the government actively keeps us in the dark and persists in approving developments that devastate the environment.

 

Given that this government in the dark never chose to bring any of the petroleum bills to light for public comment or consultation, its standard operating procedure for them to pat themselves on the back and tell us what a wonderful job they have done on our behalf just doesn’t cut it- how would we know? And why in the world would we trust them? It’s not like they have a track record of putting the welfare or concerns of Bahamians first.

 

Peanuts for Damages

The $10m penalties for damage in oil exploration are a joke – no a bloody insult, when you consider the extent of the damage that could happen during oil exploration – and what about the actual drilling?  Do the fines cover actual drilling for oil? How would we know?

 

Just think back to what British Petroleum did to the Gulf of Mexico – they have yet to contain that ongoing catastrophe and the fines (in the BILLIONS) do not even come close to “restoring” the damage – to the marine environment, to the health of the people in the area or to the catastrophic economic damages borne by fishermen and those in the tourism trade. Oil disasters are not restorable – that is the crux of the matter – if you look at the Exonn Valzez 1989 disaster they are STILL finding oil more than 25 years later! when they test areas that “look” like they have been cleaned up.

 

Drilling muds used in oil exploration cause damage to the environment by suffocating reefs and causing fish to leave the area. Who exactly gets to quantify what “damage” means? Do dead reefs, fish, sea birds, or marine mammals count as “damage”?

 

Damage Before Drilling

Even before the first exploratory well is dug the seismic testing used to analyze where the most likely place to find oil blasts HUGE sound into the marine environment. In Trinidad and Tobago this sound blasted craters in the seabed that were 25 meters across, and the fish disappeared and did not return.

 

Seismic testing creates extreme underwater noise that disturbs marine life, in particular whales and dolphins who live in a world of sound.  Who knows what damage Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC)’s seismic testing did – No one. Even when asked, the BPC scientist said they never saw whales and dolphins. Did they listen for them before they blasted their home with noise that is as loud as standing next to a 747 while taking off? Apparently not.
Seismic testing can also have extremely serious, or lethal effects on fish because their

​s​wim bladders can be ruptured with the intensive local noise,  increasing mortality and disrupting fish populations. This testing can also damage plankton – the base of the food chain in the ocean.

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Imagine… Oppression, Devastation and Exploitation

All the Bahamas government keeps “selling” us is that we will be rich IF we find oil – and that we should imagine what our future might look like IF we found oil. The Attorney General Allyson Gibson asked us to look at countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Dubai – where, their countries had transformed into much admired modern cities, and the people enjoy a high standard of living.

 

But what more can we, or should we expect when we have Wayne Munroe calling for the flogging of immigrants, and suggesting that women don’t need Women’s Rights, that women should be satisfied, because after all, we can be educated – unlike women in Muslim countries. Are we as a country actually aspiring to the worst countries benchmark and being told to be satisfied because we are marginally better than them?

 

It is somewhat difficult, if not impossible to speak of these countries with such glowing admiration especially when they are morally bankrupt societies built by slave labour, including the sex slave trade of children. The environment, and human rights (especially women) are at the bottom of the barrel – just like The Bahamas – so it is fitting after all for the Bahamas to aspire to that greater model of oppression, devastation and exploitation. And, like the countries mentioned above, the government knows full well that there will be no wealth to be shared among “regular” Bahamians, the wealth will be distributed at the “top” where politicians will be there with their outstretched grubby greedy hands to benefit off the backbone of this country – our environment – at our collective expense and at the expense of future generations.

 

Cheap Gas

Additionally, to try and tell Bahamians that we will benefit from cheaper gas is just another bold face lie. Any oil extracted from the Bahamas will go to a refinery and will be sold back to us at full market value. The dishonesty of this government just has to stop!

 

Speaking of the “selling value of the petroleum prevailing market”, in case the government does not have access to the internet, the “prevailing cost of petroleum” today is $32.28 per barrel. In Feb 2015 it was $54.79 and in the same month in 2014 it was $104.83. So given the general decline in the price of oil how much money is the Bahamas going to realize IF oil is found? Why are we allowing them to rip up the seabed for pocket change? What does the government know that they are not telling us? Have the back door deals been concluded? This is outrageous!

 

Global Oil Glut

And who are they selling this oil to; when according to this article, tankers can’t offload their crude because storage space has run out. Having exposed the world yesterday to the 2-mile long line of tankers-full’o’crude heading from Iraq to the US, several weeks after reporting that China has run out of oil storage space we can now confirm that the global crude “in transit” glut is becoming gargantuan and is starting to have adverse consequences on the price of oil.”  Have we been completely duped?

 

More Money Please – the Audacity and Hypocrisy of it all!

While the Bahamian people pay for entire junkets for the Bahamas government to attend United Nations forums to beg for funding for adaptation to climate change – the government, has the audacity to push full speed ahead committing us to an industry that directly and severely impacts climate change, sea level rise, pollutes the air we breathe and wreaks havoc on the marine environment which is the basis of our economy! The hypocrisy is astonishing!

 

Transparency Accountability Rule of Law and Democracy are DEAD

As if the government doesn’t already lack transparency accountability and complete disregard and disrespect for the rule of law, they are currently proposing scandalous changes to the Planning and Subdivision Act which will essentially gut it, leaving the law useless – will oil exploration developers be let off the hook as proposed in these changes?

 

We can talk about fines all day every day – but here it is, BEC at Clifton and other sites in The Bahamas are haemorrhaging oil DAILY, in plain sight, and absolutely nothing is being done to stem the flow of oil into the marine environment and ground water. The changes to the Planning and Subdivision Act would let BEC off the hook – so that they would never have to clean up the disastrous mess at Clifton and other sites. With BPC’s oil drilling who is going to be the watchdog for this industry – or are we to believe that the industry and government will be honest with us. That is simply laughable.

 

Meanwhile, the government is pushing through with the National Intelligence Agency legislation so they can legalize spying on their citizens and other suspects, but the Bahamian people can’t get a Freedom of Information Act and the Planning and Subdivision Act gets gutted!

 

 

Ghost Move
And what is a classic, but fully expected, low and underhanded move from the government in the dark’s oil propaganda camp, Attorney General Allyson Gibson remarked in the Nassau Guardian 4th Feb, 2016 that “Research shows Bahamians don’t want oil referendum.” Where is that research? Was it conducted in a Cabinet meeting? That could be the only place where such research would have been conducted and resulted in the desired outcome. We were promised a referendum BEFORE any oil exploration was conducted – then it got moved to after oil exploration in the hopes that IF we find oil the government will continue to appeal to the lowest common denominator – greed of the average person – so they can finish up their back door deals, and leave a legacy of environmental destruction and degradation in their path which our children will have to deal with. Shame on all of them!

BEC is dumping oil

The Bahamas is the most beautiful place on earth but for how long? Please share, tell, tweet and tag these photos and sign the petition to demand that oil laws are put in place.

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Environmentalist warns of a third possible Rubis leak

In the foreground are what appear to be recently drilled test wells. If the station is indeed the site of a fuel spill, it will be the third Rubis facility suspected of hydrocarbon pollution in New Providence.

In the foreground are what appear to be recently drilled test wells. If the station is indeed the site of a fuel spill, it will be the third Rubis facility suspected of hydrocarbon pollution in New Providence.

Ferreira says test wells and fuel recovery tanks observed at Porky’s Service Station on East Street South site mirror the cleanup operation in Marathon

 

 

A leading environmentalist has called for a full investigation into a third suspected fuel leak from a Rubis station in New Providence.

 

Ecologist & Attorney Romi Ferreira, a director of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), said highly toxic and environmentally destructive substances may have leaked, or may be continuing to leak into the ground at Porky’s Service Station on East Street South.

 

“What seem to be test wells, some perhaps recently drilled, along with mobile recovery tanks can be observed at the station,” Ferreira said. “It would seem they are attempting to recover whatever spill material is in the ground – whatever hydrocarbon it is, either gas or diesel – as part of an ongoing exercise.

Fuel recovery tanks at Porky’s, just like those in operation near the Robinson Road Station.

Fuel recovery tanks at Porky’s, just like those in operation near the Robinson Road Station.

“This is precisely the same methodology that Rubis used at Marathon, they installed similar types of test wells and a recovery system utilizing the same types of tanks.  In fact the tanks can be observed as a part of the soil vapor extraction system Rubis currently has running in Marathon, on the property of a resident who lives at ground zero of that disastrous spill of 24,000 gallons of gas.”

 

In the Marathon case, public awareness was raised about the grave health and environmental dangers associated with the leak, but only two years after residents were exposed to harmful, cancer causing chemicals.

 

Ferreira said the recently revealed Sandyport case, and now this East Street South example, force Bahamians to ask how many other leaks have managed to elude public scrutiny.

 

“How many families are being slowly poisoned without their knowledge, while fuel companies and the government maintain their silence?” he asked.

 

“Not only do these leaks point to a culture of poor environmental stewardship, they also speak to a fundamental lack of transparency and accountability on the part of both the company or companies involved, and our elected leaders.”

 

Ferreira said it appears that Rubis and the government learned nothing from the Marathon case, and insisted Bahamians have a right to know when their health is being placed at risk.

 

“Fuel companies and the Ministry of Environment have a duty to make residents and businesses aware of what they know, as soon as they know it.

Test Wells

Test Wells

“This is what happens in other jurisdictions around the world. Why are Bahamian lives considered less important? When will our government officials take environmental pollution seriously and move to protect us from its serious consequences?

 

“As with the Sandyport case – which itself only recently came to light through the efforts of concerned residents and businesses – STB calls for a full and open investigation of the situation at East Street South. What’s more, the people whose lives and livelihoods may be affected by this third possible leak should be informed of what the company and the government know immediately.

 

“Further, we call for increased attention to be placed to the physical state and integrity of all facilities and infrastructure that stores or transports fuels and other volatile hydrocarbon substances throughout the country.

 

 

“The time for playing hide-and-seek is over, government officials and fuel companies must come clean about any possible dangers to the public health and the integrity of our environment. They cannot be allowed to play with people’s lives.”

Call for independent probe into new Rubis leak claims

Neighbors say the Sandyport station has been leaking fuel for weeks, leading to the closure of several businesses last week due to overpowering fumes.

Neighbors say the Sandyport station has been leaking fuel for weeks, leading to the closure of several businesses last week due to overpowering fumes.

Save The Bays: company should not be allowed to investigate itself; government and Rubis display lack of transparency yet again, despite lessons of Marathon fuel spill disaster

 

 

Lamenting the fact that the public had to learn of a second possible fuel leak from a Rubis service station in New Providence via social media, Vanessa Haley-Benjamin called for a fully independent investigation into the complaints of nearby residents and businesses.

 

Haley-Benjamin, CEO of fast-growing environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB) applauded the news that Environmental Remediation and Response Laboratory (EMRAD) is now investigating, but questioned why the government remained tight-lipped until the matter was raised in a Facebook post.

 

“One would have thought, following the failure on the part of both the government and Rubis to show transparency and adopt best practices with regard to the now notorious Marathon fuel spill, that alerting the public to another possible leak would have been their first move,” Haley-Benjamin said. “Yet it is our understanding the government officials have known about this situation for weeks.

 

“Perhaps even more concerning is a statement in the press by an unnamed Rubis executive, to the effect that the company has been looking into the Sandyport situation ‘for some time now’. Exactly how long have they known about this possible leak? Did they communicate the complaints to the government immediately and if so, why is the public only just learning of the matter?”

 

Haley-Benjamin said it appears that both the government and the company have failed to learn lessons from the December 2012 Marathon incident, in which around 24,000 gallons of gasoline leaked into the ground from a Rubis service station on Robinson Road, contaminating the water supply to nearby homes and rendering neighboring offices uninhabitable.

 

Those affected were kept in the dark for more than two years, despite serious potential consequences for their health and safety through exposure to an extremely hazardous cocktail of chemical compounds. Both the government and Rubis kept their silence until forced to speak when opposition chairman Michael Pintard raised the matter in the Senate.

 

“The government apologized and promised to be more transparent going forward. Yet here we are just a few months later, facing reports of another possible fuel spill, and again outside pressure was needed to bring the matter to light,” Haley-Benjamin said.

 

“More generally speaking, considering the serious and ongoing environmental damage caused by petrochemical pollution throughout New Providence and around The Bahamas, it was hoped that our political leaders would consider every potential case to be high priority.

 

“A critical part of doing so would be ensuring that investigations into possible spills, leaks and other polluting incidents are conducted by credible independent bodies. In this regard, we find it alarming that Rubis is being allowed to conduct its own probe into the Sandyport complaints, EMRAD’s separate review notwithstanding.

 

“In other jurisdictions around the world, experienced scientists and industry experts with a reputation for thoroughness and objectivity are contracted to conduct such investigations. It is lamentable that in this area, as in so many others pertaining to environmental protection, The Bahamas continues to lag far behind. This case is yet another pointed example of why the country desperately needs a robust Freedom of Information Act to be passed immediately.”

Gov’t urged to deal swiftly with Clifton oil pollution

Oil regularly escapes these barriers, installed to contain pollution emanating from one or more entities located at Clifton industrial park. Studies conducted in 2011 show more than 40% decline in live reef cover as some nearby sites.

Oil regularly escapes these barriers, installed to contain pollution emanating from one or more entities located at Clifton industrial park. Studies conducted in 2011 show more than 40% decline in live reef cover as some nearby sites.

Haley-Benjamin says nearly six months after official remediation efforts were announced, the marine environment remains under serious threat

 

 

Nearly six months after the government announced it would spend $10 million on oil spill remediation efforts, petrochemical pollution remains a serious threat to the sensitive marine environment throughout The Bahamas, but particularly at Clifton Bay, environmentalists say.

 

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), said recent complaints from divers visiting the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Gardens, who emerged from the water covered in oil, prove that whatever actions have been taken to date have been far from sufficient.

 

“We appreciate the government’s recognition that oil pollution in Clifton Bay is an issue that needs attention,” she said. “Unfortunately, whatever has been done so far has failed to produce timely results.

 

“Details of the remediation plan were not released to the public, so it is difficult to understand why, considering the reported financial commitment, a tangible solution has yet to be found.”

 

Divers frequently emerge from Clifton Bay covered in oil

Divers frequently emerge from Clifton Bay covered in oil

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) is responsible for the sculpture garden, and executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert warned of the devastating impact this pollution is having on living coral reefs, fish and other marine organisms in the area.

 

Haley-Benjamin said: “We wholeheartedly support and second BREEF’s call for increased protection of the reef systems around western New Providence, which are critically important resources, ecologically and commercially speaking, and which have been under severe stress from industrial pollution for years.”

 

The area is vital to the local dive tourism sector, she said, as well as for recreational and commercial fishermen, with the sculpture garden in particular attracting interest from avid divers around the world.

 

Designed as a fusion of art, education, and marine conservation, the garden was created to provide a habitat for fish, corals and other marine organisms, divert snorkelers and divers away from natural reefs and thus providing space for restoration, and serve as an outdoor classroom for environmental education and citizen science.

 

“Quite aside from the dire environmental consequences, the ongoing pollution is threatening tourism revenue and doing untold damage to the country’s reputation abroad,” Haley-Benjamin said. “STB is calling on the government to make this issue a priority and give it the attention it deserves.”

 

According to Dr. Craig Dahlgren, a marine biologist and senior research scientist who studied coral reef ecology in The Bahamas and wider Caribbean for more than 20 years, pollution has already had a devastating effect on Clifton Bay.

 

“In surveys of coral reefs around New Providence conducted in 2011, sites near Clifton were among the lowest in terms of live coral cover, and had seen some of the greatest declines in live coral from previous surveys of reefs off southwest New Providence conducted in 2009,” he said.

 

At some sites, the researched showed this decline to have been as high as 43% in just two years.

 

In addition to coastal pollution, increased temperatures and overfishing have also had an impact. However, Dahlgren said, the sites closest to likely pollution sources were among those with the lowest live coral cover.

 

“It is clear that significant changes are happening to our coral reef resources,” Haley-Benjamin said. “It is imperative that we act now to prevent continued degradation.

 

“We and other concerned environmental groups stand ready to assist the government in identifying the origins of the oil spills and enhancing remediation efforts to accelerate meaningful results.

 

“To the extent that the $10 million plan announced in January may be working, it is clearly not working fast enough.”

Enforcement of oil drilling regulations is key

STATEMENT

By Save The Bays

Save The Bays (STB) commends the government for bringing a package of Bills before Parliament to regulate and govern oil exploration in The Bahamas.

 

We also welcome the statement of Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett that environmental protections enshrined in the regulations will follow international best practices adopted since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

STB will reserve further comment on the regulations themselves until our directors have had a chance to study the documents tabled today by Minister Dorsett.

 

It is important to note here, however, that regardless of its contents and structure, a regulatory regime can only be as effective as the commitment and integrity of those tasked with enforcing it.

 

In this regard, STB feels compelled to point out the long record of dismal and at times virtually nonexistent enforcement of the environmental protocols already in place under a wide array of laws. Indeed, The Bahamas has suffered and continues to suffer due to the failure of successive governments to uphold their sacred duty to preserve the country’s natural resources for the benefit of future generations.

 

Nowhere has this failure been more pronounced than in the blind eye turned to the egregious culture of unregulated development, which has been allowed to destroy huge swaths of ecologically unique and culturally invaluable marine and terrestrial habitats throughout the country, in the name of a boost in jobs and revenue generation in the short term.

As the advocates of oil exploration project that its economic impact will be comparable or even greater than that of resort development, STB fears a similar culture will ensue, but at the risk of far graver consequences. To be clear, regulation of this sector is not a matter to be taken lightly by any Bahamian: a major oil drilling accident in Bahamian waters could bring this country to its knees overnight.

 

Meanwhile, a lax attitude to environmental protection in general can easily lead to a failure to penalize smaller incidents and accidents, which in turn,  over time, could ruin our domestic fisheries industry and compromise the very assets upon which our tourism industry is based. Anyone doubting this need only look towards Clifton Pier, where leaks and spills of heavy fuels and toxic materials have gone uninvestigated (should that be unpunished?) for years, continuing unabated to this day.

 

There have been a number of reasons for these failures in enforcement, among them the bewildering array of laws that touch on environmental protection. For this reason, STB has been campaigning for over a year for a comprehensive Environmental Protection Act that would harmonize and rationalize these requirements and regulations into one comprehensive conservation and protection regime.

 

The other leading cause is the lack of an enforcement agency with any real power. The existing body, the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST), has repeatedly been described by STB as “a toothless tiger”, having stood by while large-scale outrages were perpetrated upon areas of rare ecological significance around the country. BEST has had no choice in the matter; it does not possess a legal mandate to prevent or penalize substandard or destructive activities, but acts merely as an advisory board to government.

 

Therefore, STB takes this opportunity to renew its call for the creation of an Environmental Protection Act along with strong relevant regulations and a truly independent, well-funded and effective environmental regulator, before oil exploration is allowed to begin. This body should be created by Act of Parliament, and its independence from political or any other form of interference should be enshrined in law.

 

Otherwise, any and all environmental regulations and protocols run the risk of ending up being worth less in practice, than the paper they were written on.

While we cannot speak for the more than 17,000 friends on Facebook who believe, as we do, that the environment matters, we can say with certainty that those 6,000-plus who have signed the petition at www.savethebays.bs echo the urgent call for an Environmental Protection Act.

The imminent reality of oil exploration makes enacting that legislation more pressing than ever. Thus, Save The Bays commends government on its tabling of regulations and seeks further confirmation of its meaningful goodwill in this regard by announcing it will introduce an Environmental Protection Act in the immediate future prior to the issuance of any exploration permits. In that way and only in that way will the people of The Bahamas know and trust that the Government of The Bahamas has the interest of the future of this country and its most spectacular natural resource – the waters, coral reefs and marine life – at heart.

Save The Bays Praises Government Action, But Says It Took A Crisis for a Wake-up Call

Photo shows oil slick in waters of Clifton Bay this weekend where divers were sending images of The Bahamas around the world. Save The Bays praised government for calling in consultants on an urgent basis but said years of reporting leakage had been ignored and urged more transparency, including sharing of results of consultants’ findings.

Photo shows oil slick in waters of Clifton Bay this weekend where divers were sending images of The Bahamas around the world. Save The Bays praised government for calling in consultants on an urgent basis but said years of reporting leakage had been ignored and urged more transparency, including sharing of results of consultants’ findings.

With massive globs of oil bogging down beaches, choking fish, smothering marine life and coating dive equipment and divers with a slimy black mask, the country’s fastest-growing environmental organization today praised government for taking action following the latest oil spill in Clifton Bay, but lamented it took a crisis to give rise to a wake-up call.

“Respective governments have been given warning time and time again of oil leaks in Clifton Bay,” said Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy. “Those leaks have gotten increasingly worse and in recent months have erupted into oil spills covering vast areas of Clifton Bay, one of the most valuable marine environments in The Bahamas, a place that draws hundreds, if not thousands from all over the world, to dive its reefs every year. Now, those reefs are in danger of being smothered and divers are coming up with their wet suits and gear covered with a greasy coating that is like something from a bad movie.”

In a day when photos of the conditions can be e-mailed, texted and tweeted around the globe in seconds, the reputation of The Bahamas is at stake, she added.

The horror drove government to act, she said, noting that Save The Bays with its more than 17,000 Facebook friends and followers welcomed Minister of Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett’s words today when he announced experts had been flown in on an urgent basis.

“On Thursday past,” Dorsett said, one day after the first new oil slick was spotted, “it was reported to the Port Controller that there was a smell of oil and an oil slick seen in the Clifton area.” The Port Department, he said, went out to investigate and found nothing. Two days later, it happened again and another, a larger group including BEST Commission, and representatives from various ministries, went to inspect.

Oil in Clifton Bay dead fish October 2014 Stuart Cove

“The assessment revealed that Albany had closed its beach restricting access to it by its guests,” Dorsett said. “It also revealed that fuel had ‘washed’ alongside the coastline of Stuart Cove’s operations and entered the canal, where their boats are docked. There was also evidence of oiling along the coast in the vicinity of the dive operation. The Government immediately engaged the services of Coastal Systems International Inc., a United States Environmental Firm to come to the Bahamas as a matter of urgency to assist in investigating and confirming the source/sources of the oil spill, assess the impact of the oil spill, to address the mitigation of this spill, advise on the preparation of an environmental management plan for the Clifton area and to make remediation recommendations.”

“We applaud government for calling in consultants immediately, though we also believe that there are Bahamian firms perfectly capable of assessing the damage and preparing a mitigation and action plan,” said McCoy. “But why did it have to take such a catastrophe to create a wake-up call? This alarm has been sounded for years and just like climate change, it falls on deaf ears until it becomes so dramatic that there is no longer a way to avoid dealing with it.”

Again, said McCoy, the oil slick calls attention to the ongoing cry for a Freedom of Information Act and she urged government to share the findings from government consultants.

“If we were in most other countries and this happened, we would know where the oil came from. The cause and the cure would not be a mystery and people would not be complacent,” she said. “There would be a demand to know how it happened and for those who were responsible to be held accountable. Why is it that we the people are being kept in the dark about what is threatening the very environment that makes The Bahamas so special, our waters? These waters do not belong to any one corporation or government entity, certainly not to BEC. They belong to the people.”

For Stuart Cove, who runs one of the largest and most photographed and televised dive operations in the region, the oil slicks have been a disaster.

“A large part of the thick oil slick gets trapped by our marina. Many of our ropes and fenders are saturated by this tarry substance. All our boats have a tremendous amount of it on their hulls. Many of the fish have died and floated to the surface. All the while hundreds of visitors to our country with mobile phones have witness it. Many of the staff are suffering from upper respiratory illness from the toxic fumes. Who is going to pay for the damage? Government will not admit even though we have multiple images and video of it coming from the BEC water outfalls,” he said.

According to environmental activist Sam Duncombe, founder of reEarth and a director of Save The Bays, there have been reports of oil leaking into the bay for years without any answers provided to the public. “But this is the first time I have seen oil at Adelaide,” she said.

Impact of Clifton oil pollution set to be revealed

This photo, taken last week at Clifton Pier, shows oil seeping through a barrier presumably erected to contain it. The area suffers frequent spills and leaks of petroleum products and other other toxic substances, most likely from one or more of the nearby industrial plants. However, in the absence of any official investigations by government, both the source of the leaks and the identity of the agencies that sporadically attempt to contain them, remains unclear.

This photo, taken last week at Clifton Pier, shows oil seeping through a barrier presumably erected to contain it. The area suffers frequent spills and leaks of petroleum products and other other toxic substances, most likely from one or more of the nearby industrial plants. However, in the absence of any official investigations by government, both the source of the leaks and the identity of the agencies that sporadically attempt to contain them, remains unclear.

Clifton-Western Bays Waterkeeper organization launched as part of fast-growing international clean water initiative

The full extent of the damage caused to Clifton Bay by frequent oil spills and other forms of environmental degradation may soon be made clear, as international experts are working with concerned locals on water quality issues in this ecologically significant area.

The effort is being spearheaded by fast-growing local social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays, in conjunction with the global Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading non-government organization (NGO) which coordinates more than 200 stewards of the marine environment, or Waterkeepers, who are assigned to rivers, bays, lakes and coastal areas around the world.

“Our waters define us. They are our source of industry and prosperity, the source of life itself in this beautiful country,” said Save The Bays director and proposed Bahamas Waterkeeper Joseph Darville. “We are committed to doing all we can to protect our seas, and the wondrous diversity of life they sustain, both for their inherent value, and for the benefit of future generations of Bahamians.

“There can be no better partner in this effort that the Waterkeeper Alliance, which stands behind every Waterkeeper in the world as they fight for their community’s right to clean water, supporting them with scientific research, strategic planning, and vital training.”

Darville said that while he has been nominated to be the official country representative for Waterkeepers, getting a Waterkeeper organization operational in the Clifton and Western Bays area will represent a huge step forward in the effort to protect and preserve the waters of The Bahamas.

“Clifton Bay is so important to the population of New Providence,” he said. “It has been a prime fishing ground for generations and is home to the island’s most significant reef system. The nearby mangrove forests are spawning grounds for countless species of marine life, which populate the bay and the surrounding areas, supporting our fishing industry and creating the conditions for countless economic opportunities for Bahamians.

“For years, this vital marine habitat has been under siege from oil spills and systematic toxic leakages from the industrial complex and power plant at the southwestern end of the bay. The government has failed in its duty to investigate this travesty, and as a result the offenders remain unidentified and there is no record of the extent of damage.”

Once operational, the Clifton-Western Bays Waterkeeper’s job will be to make up for the government’s failure in this regard, working to identify the level and nature of toxins present in the area. The studies are also expected to reveal the impact of other pressures on the bay, for example the unauthorized construction works undertaken at nearby Nygard Cay, which environmentalists claim have interrupted the natural flow of sand and damaged important reef systems.

During a recent visit by a group international environmental experts – many of them Waterkeepers – The Bahamas was warned of the grave effects the kind of pollution seen at Clifton could have on fishing stocks as well as the tourism industry.

“Contamination of water can come from many different places, and very often it is difficult to see where that contamination is coming from,” said Rachel Silverstein, the Waterkeeper for Biscayne Bay, Florida. “But in the case can see very clearly where this oil is originating, it is very point-sourced pollution and they should take action very quickly to clean it up and to stop the leaks in order to protect the marine environment, the clean water economy of The Bahamas, and the livelihood of the people who live in and around Clifton Bay.”

Marydele Donnelly, director of international policy for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, said: “The oil on the water was appalling and I can’t imagine what it must be doing to the marine resources, here. It’s been an ongoing problem. The power plant is filthy and here it is in one of The Bahamas most important cultural sites at the Clifton Bay Heritage Park.”

Alex Matthiessen, CEO of the Blue Marble Project, said: “The idea of having open oil spills in an area as beautiful as The Bahamas, that relies so heavily on tourism, on clean water, on clean beaches, on all kinds of recreational activities – the two just don’t mix.

“I guarantee you if there is too much of that kind of flagrant environmental pollution down here, you are going to start to lose foreign tourists and that’s the foundation of the Bahamian economy.”

For more on their visit Save The Bays Bahamas youtube channel: http://youtu.be/cR6E2YiLvGo

Save The Bays To Examine Permissions For Oil Exploration

A map from the report showing the approximate location of the first well. The black boxes indicate the approximate boundaries of the licensed areas, while Andros is to the north.

A map from the report showing the approximate location of the first well. The black boxes indicate the approximate boundaries of the licensed areas, while Andros is to the north.

 

Originally Published in The Tribune

By: Ava Turnquest

June 16th, 2014

 

SAVE The Bays will request copies of all permits granted for oil exploration from the government with the view to considering whether they should be judicially reviewed, according to director Fred Smith.

Mr Smith, a lawyer and environmental activist, said oil exploration licences granted in the absence of regulatory oversight or capacity represent “pure unadulterated hypocrisy”.

“As a director of Save the Bays, I am firmly opposed and would discourage licences for oil exploration until an independent environmental protection agency is created under an environmental protection act by Parliament,” he said.

“One that is properly funded and is independent from Cabinet, in particular the Office of the Prime Minister. The incestuous relationship that exists with the BEST (Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology) commission and the Office of the Prime Minister, and the infection of BEST in the business of all other statutory regulators, is a recipe for environmental disaster in the Bahamas.”

Mr Smith added: “One need only look at the photographs of what is happening in Bimini to see that when the executive gets it in its head to approve a project, licence or development, no amount of pretended scrutiny or oversight by the BEST commission or any other regulatory agencies will have any effect.”

Mr Smith was referring to ongoing dredging in Bimini as part of Resorts World Bimini’s construction of a pier, cruise ship terminal and man-made island.

His comments follow remarks made by Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) CEO Simon Potter at an environmental law and policy conference on oil exploration and related environmental damage, at the College of the Bahamas on Friday.

In an interview with The Tribune, Mr Smith criticised the independence of the BEST commission, which he said was not supported by parliamentary act and functioned as the Prime Minister’s “lap dog”.

“(BEST Commission) is merely thrown out there to pretend as if we have an environmental agency,” Mr Smith said, “when in fact we don’t. I cry shame on the Free National Movement and the Progressive Liberal Party that after decades of harping on about an environmental protection agency, neither have had the guts or decency to pass an Environment Protection Act and create such a body. The politicians on both sides of the fence have been hypocrites to the Bahamian people.”

He said: “We must cut the ministerial umbilical cord between the regulators and the Prime Minister. The environment of the Bahamas is too valuable to be sacrificed on the altar of political stupidity.”

Test wells are conditional on the three-year extension granted to BPC’s five oil exploration licences. The licences were extended until 2016, and its terms oblige BPC to start drilling its first well by April 2015.

Minister of Environment Kenred Dorsett has maintained that BPC will not be permitted to drill its test wells until the legislation is in place. On Friday, Mr Dorsett said he hoped the five draft proposed bills and regulations would be presented to Cabinet “soon”.

The bills include an amended Petroleum Act, amended petroleum regulations, a sovereign wealth fund, a petroleum exploration and environmental protection and pollution control regulations and petroleum exploration health and safety regulations.

Draft legislation also provides for the statutory establishment of a Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, which Mr Dorsett said will act as an equivalent to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Yesterday, Mr Smith said: “It is pure unadulterated hypocrisy on the part of the Minister of Environment or any other politicians to parrot respect for our laws and litigation, and oversight and monitoring of these projects, when they really don’t intend or in fact have the capacity or the resources to monitor independently. Before the first drop of oil is pumped out of our Bahamian banks we need to have an environmental act and an independent environmental protection agency.”

Mr Smith, a QC, said the government’s statements on protecting or mitigating damage to the environment was “political popularity speak”.

He said: “I will be writing to the government to ask for copies of these alleged permits and consider whether or not they should be judicially reviewed because in the absence of proper regulatory oversight, that is properly funded and technically resourced, the Bahamas can face monumental environment oil disasters which will destroy our marine environment, for ecotourism, sustaining of our fisheries resources and exports and will completely turn away tourists.”

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