Impact of Oban deal being kept secret

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.

By Ava Turnquest

Tribune Chief Reporter

THE environmental impact assessment for the controversial Oban Energies project will not likely be made public until a new heads of agreement is inked, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said yesterday.

Despite this, Mr Foulkes, who co-chairs the Cabinet subcommittee spearheading the Oban review and renegotiations, insisted the government was committed to ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the process.

He told The Tribune he was aware of reports circulating that the project had been scaled down to just an oil storage facility – dropping the oil refinery – however, he said those plans were not communicated to the Cabinet committee.

Mr Foulkes confirmed the government’s negotiating team was set to meet with Oban principals on January 7.

“We are in receipt of the complete EIA for the project,” he said. “The technical people they are reviewing it, and we will go from there. 

“The amended heads of agreement has to come first before we reveal the EIA,” Mr Foulkes said when asked if the report will be made public. 

He continued: “We’re going to be transparent about the whole process. Oban will be accountable at every stage of the way. The prime minister has asked me as the chairman of the committee to keep the public informed every step of the way.

“So there is nothing that’s going to happen unless we have full disclosure. The EIA has already been presented to us, the review of it is a very complicated process, several government agencies, including Town Planning (Committee) and the BEST Commission, certain regulations and laws that have to be complied with.” 

When pressed further, Mr Foulkes said: “But that’s all I am prepared to say at this time. Cabinet has to make decisions every step of the way. I don’t want to preempt or presume what Cabinet will say, but the prime minister wants it to be done thoroughly.”

On the sidelines of a $25,000 donation to Grand Bahama’s Superstar Rockers Junkanoo group on Saturday, Oban Operations Manager Alexander Grikitis revealed the EIA for its $5.5 billion oil storage terminal and refinery project in East Grand Bahama had been completed.

He also said the company is still committed to the country and its people.

“We are looking to show our support and showing we are here to support more jobs, and in the long-term Oban has now completed its EIA for our project,” Mr Grikitis said on Saturday. “We are hoping to get our permitting going in the New Year, and early January we have a meeting with the government.”

The government’s initial agreement with Oban sparked intense criticism, including points of opposition from several environmental organisations that took issue with the lack of an environmental impact assessment, given the project’s risk factors.

The fallout prompted an admission from Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis that there were gross missteps in the government process.

Yesterday, Bahamas National Trust Executive Director Eric Carey said his organisation had not yet seen the EIA report, and only learned of the date for the upcoming meeting after reading The Tribune. 

“We’ve not seen it,” Mr Carey said, “we will have a  meeting to discuss it, and we will release a statement.”

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