Months After Major Oil Spill, Bahamas Could Permit Offshore Drilling

The Bahamas seems to be poised to greenlight drilling for oil in waters about 150 miles from South Florida simply months after Hurricane Dorian ravaged the island nation and prompted a significant spill on Grand Bahama island. 

The Bahamas Petroleum Firm (BPC) hopes to drill its first exploratory effectively in an space 100 miles southwest of the nation’s Andros Island as early as subsequent month, the corporate stated in a current regulatory submitting. The Perseverance #1 enterprise would coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which began in April 2010 and launched greater than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. 

There’s presently no offshore drilling in Bahamian waters.

“Perseverance #1 has the potential to open a world-class, new-frontier basin offshore Bahamas, lower than 200 miles from the world’s largest hydrocarbon market/infrastructure,” Simon Potter, the chief government officer of BPC, stated in an announcement accompanying the regulatory submitting. He known as the deliberate effectively “one of many premier prospects that could possibly be drilled globally this yr” with the potential to “rework the revenue-generating capability of the Bahamian financial system.”

The nation and its tourism-dependent financial system took a significant hit final September when Hurricane Dorian, a strong Class 5 storm that scientists say was strengthened by planetary warming, slammed into the Abaco Islands after which stalled over Grand Bahama for 30 hours. The storm killed at the very least 67 individuals, left lots of extra unaccounted for and prompted an estimated $3.four billion in injury. 

Stocktrek Photographs through Getty Photographs

A satellite tv for pc picture of Florida (prime left), the Bahamas (proper) and Cuba (backside left).

In a Sept. 27 speech on the United Nations in New York, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis known as on world leaders to “deal with the worldwide local weather emergency as the best problem going through humanity.” He stated island nations just like the Bahamas “are on the frontlines of being swallowed into an abyss created initially by human exercise and more and more by inaction.” 

Final yr’s hurricane catastrophe provided a recent reminder of the risk that local weather change poses to coastal fossil gasoline infrastructure across the globe, a lot of which isn’t constructed to resist storms of Dorian’s magnitude. On the island of Grand Bahama, Dorian’s winds ripped the dome roofs off storage tanks at an oil terminal owned by Norwegian vitality big Equinor, inflicting some 55,000 barrels ― 2.31 million gallons of oil ― to spill onto the bottom. (The corporate initially estimated that 119,000 barrels spilled, however later up to date the determine.)

Maria Alejandra Cardona for HuffPost

Staff clear up the oil spill at an Equinor storage facility alongside Grand Bahama’s southeast coast in September 2019.

Joseph Darville, an activist with native environmental teams Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas, stated it’s “deplorable” and “inconceivable” that the Bahamas would think about permitting offshore drilling after a hurricane-induced oil spill. The nation of some 400,000 individuals sits smack dab in the midst of the Atlantic’s Hurricane Alley.

“That is fiddling round with catastrophic occasions,” Darville stated in a WhatsApp message. “It’s an insult to the Bahamian individuals, particularly to environmental teams who’ve spoken out adamantly about this.” 

The Bahamian authorities should nonetheless give last approval to BPC’s plan, however the firm has instructed buyers it’s “assured of receiving applicable approval in a timeframe in keeping with the Firm’s meant drilling marketing campaign.” BPC estimates the realm by which it needs to drill may maintain as much as 2 billion barrels of oil. 

The corporate already has 5 licenses for offshore oil exploration overlaying roughly four million acres, in accordance with its web site. A kind of licenses is for an space some 50 miles from Miami. 

Oceana/contributed graphic

A map of the Bahamas Petroleum Firm’s drilling license areas and the proposed web site of its exploratory effectively.

Oceana, a Washington, D.C.-based ocean conservation nonprofit, opposes the proposed Perseverance #1 drilling and warns {that a} spill there may devastate marine ecosystems and tourism not solely within the Bahamas but in addition in Florida and alongside the U.S. East Coast. 

“As just lately as 2019, the Bahamian authorities made statements that they’d not proceed with any offshore drilling, which we have been actually inspired by,” stated Diane Hoskins, a marketing campaign director at Oceana. “To now see these bulletins coming, it’s simply alarming.” 

The Deepwater Horizon rig was drilling an exploratory effectively when the explosion and spill occurred 10 years in the past. Oil from that spill was discovered alongside 1,313 miles of shoreline in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, a 2016 research concluded.

“Our hope,” Hoskins stated, “is that the prime minister will rethink this and reverse course, recognizing the shared pursuits of the USA and the Bahamas.”

Offshore fossil gasoline growth is a significant challenge in Florida and alongside the East Coast. In 2018, the Trump administration proposed opening almost all U.S. waters to grease and gasoline growth, a transfer that drew outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike. Lower than per week later, then-Inside Secretary Ryan Zinke introduced that Florida’s coastal waters have been “off the desk” for offshore drilling, crediting the shift to the affect of then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stated in an announcement final week that he’s “assured” the Trump administration will lengthen the ban on oil and gasoline drilling off Florida’s coast. 

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