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Environment Minister articulates Bahamas’ position on oil exploration

During an address to a regional Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC) seminar held in The Bahamas this week, Environment Minister Earl Deveaux (pictured, file photo) stressed the importance of having the correct policies in place before commencing drilling in local waters. 

The Eleutheran
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011

THE HON. EARL D. DEVEAUX, M.P. MINISTER OF THE ENVIRONMENT – Good morning: It is a pleasure to have you here in The Bahamas at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre. We are grateful to IMO and to all of you coming and sharing your knowledge, concerns, hopes and aspirations. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2011 exposed the vulnerability of The Bahamas and illuminated the fact that our country’s Legislative and Regulatory framework required comprehensive review.

We watched with morbid fascination, the efforts of the United States, BP and all other parties’ to stop the flow of oil. Here in The Bahamas, we conducted several pre-impact assessments in Cay Sal — the most likely place the oil would affect us — should it hit our waters.

It goes without saying that the awareness of a likely event, our vulnerability and the absolute certainty that oceans know no borders have consumed our thinking about oil, not only in our country, but in neighbouring countries – Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico and the United States. All of you, like us, are concerned about events and consequences beyond our borders.

The Bahamas has had five exploration wells drilled since 1947, the last in 1986. With advances in technology, increase in the price of oil and ever widening search for “black gold”. We have felt the pressure of commercial interest.

The response of The Bahamas has been to declare a moratorium and prepare for the future.

The Bahamas has defined its maritime boundaries with Cuba. West of Cuba and Cay Sal is Mexico. South of the Gulf of Mexico is Cuba and Cay Sal. North of Cay Sal is Florida. East and North of all of them are the Great Bahama Bank and the Island of Andros which together, form the greatest marine estuary in the western hemisphere.

Should we not prepare?
Should we not communicate?
Should we not collaborate?

This seminar is intended to focus on developing national plans for marine
pollution preparedness and response.

This is not a war that The Bahamas ever anticipate waging. However, if we do, we will not do so alone. The oceans know no borders, we need each other.

Our neighbouring countries share common seas, we share a common environment. We share a common future. Let us develop a common response.

I had been engaged in a multi-year dance with the interest of oil and the
curiosity of the media regarding the position of The Bahamas on oil.

Perhaps today, our hearing is more attuned to my words and our position.

This is an excerpt from The Eleutheran as it appeared on December 8, 2011. For updates or to read the current version of this post in its entirety, please click here.

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