Clean-Up Of Equinor Oil Spill Delayed By Covid-19 Pandemic


THE oil spill clean-up at the Equinor South Riding Point facility in East Grand Bahama seems to have slowed down over the past several months, with some areas of the forest still covered with oil.

It is believed the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the shutdown of the economy in late March could have been the reason for the suspension of the clean-up operations by Equinor officials.

When contacted this week, an official spokesman for the company said Equinor remains committed to its clean-up operations in East End.

“Equinor has, ever since the oil spill resulting from Hurricane Dorian, shown strong commitment to the cleaning-up operations. The work has been performed in close cooperation with the Bahamian government and related agencies. We do not comment on any litigation involving the company nor do we speculate if litigation will be brought against the company,” the official said.

The Tribune understands environmental activists at Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas were scheduled to visit the site yesterday to see for themselves the condition of the surrounding environment and areas that were affected.

Last September, 55,000 barrels (2.3 million gallons) were spilled at the Equinor terminal during Hurricane Dorian, which tore off the dome caps from two of the four storage tanks containing oil. A large area of the nearby forest, north of the terminal, was significantly affected. A total of 1.8m barrels were being stored at the facility at the time.

Described as a “catastrophic spill” by environmental activists, the company was urged to commence an immediate clean-up of the spill and the surrounding environment. It has been recently reported that close to 60,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered.

However, Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas have made three visits to the site in June. In a recent video, Fred Smith of Save the Bays is seen in the affected forest area, expressing concern over remnants of oil still left there.

According to Equinor’s website, the monitoring of water wells will continue throughout 2020. Some 27 wells were drilled in the area for testing of groundwater. As of January 2020, the company reported there had been no sign of contamination of groundwater as a result of testing conducted by independent contractors and third-party laboratories.

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Tribune Freeport Reporter

US Congress Members Oppose Oil Drilling in The Bahamas 


Local environmentalists urge gov’t to heed strong concerns expressed by representatives the country’s most important trading partner and strategic ally 

The local conservation community is urging the government of the Bahamas to pay heed to the strong concerns expressed by 16 members of Congress and reject a proposal for oil drilling just miles off the US coast. 

Bahamian environmentalists have been sounding the alarm for years over the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) plan to drill exploratory wells in the pristine waters to the south and west of Andros Island, and are extremely grateful to the US legislators who have echoed their concerns. 

“We are heartened and encouraged by the strong stance taken by congressmen against oil drilling in the Bahamas, said Waterkeeper Bahamas executive director Rashema Ingraham. “The United States is by far the most important trading partner and strategic ally for the Bahamas, and it would be highly irresponsible for our government to ignore their valid concerns. 

“This BPC proposal is not only a critical threat to our precious marine environment, it is also a potential foreign relations catastrophe for this country. Oil drilling would endanger the entire east coast of the United States, a nation still feeling the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster a decade ago. 

“Our tourism industry is currently being held hostage by the global Covid-19 pandemic and thousands of Bahamians are out of work. We must do all we can to preserve our good relationship with the United States as the Bahamas seeks to recover from the grave economic fallout. Now is not the time to anger our closest friends.” 

Florida representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, wrote a bipartisan letter to Secretary Michael Pompeo and the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, requesting that the State Department ask the Bahamian government to discontinue efforts to approve offshore drilling in Bahamian waters near the U.S. Atlantic Coast. They were joined by 14 other representatives up and down the US Atlantic coast. 

“The United States cannot afford another Deepwater Horizon disaster,” the letter said. “This bipartisan group of Members respects the sovereignty of The Bahamas, but a spill in Bahamian waters could bring ruin to both of our countries’ shorelines. Ten years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we call on Secretary Pompeo to urge the Bahamian government to reconsider its efforts to green-light dirty offshore oil drilling in a region so full of magnificent ecosystems and so dependent on international tourism.” 

Save The Bays chairman Joseph Darville said: “Congress has thankfully acknowledged what we have been saying from the beginning. The environmental risks of this ill-conceived plan are astronomical and the fallout from an accident would be absolutely devastating not just for the Bahamas, but also for our valued strategic partner to the north. 

“The dangers far outweigh any conceivable potential benefit. Congress members are absolutely justified in heeding the lessons of history. Even under the best possible conditions oil drilling is extremely hazardous; whereas in the Bahamas, we do not have an adequate regulatory regime to govern this industry, nor the resources to mitigate a massive spill. The United States came to our aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian 

at considerable cost to the Federal government and risk to US Coast Guard personnel. It is our turn to be good neighbours and reciprocate that generosity of spirit.” 

Casuarina McKinney-Lambert: ”No progress has been made to reduce the dangers of off-shore oil drilling since the Deepwater Horizon disaster took place 10 years ago that spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil. As a result of that oil spill, the US seafood industry lost nearly $1 billion, and the recreation industry lost more than $500 million. The US is still feeling the repercussions a decade later. 

“As a country dependent on tourism and fisheries, the Bahamas cannot the afford the risk to our country that oil drilling in our waters would pose. Having gone through Hurricane Dorian and now experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t afford the risk of another massive setback.” 

Save The Bays legal director Fred Smith, QC, noted that successive Bahamas governments have failed to effectively oversee the implementation of environmental protection laws. 

“For instance, the Planning and Subdivision Act and the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape Act are routinely ignored by legislators in giving the green light to industrial projects. Why would anyone assume that in regard to oil exploration, they will suddenly become responsible stewards of the environment? 

“Having laws and enforcing those laws are two completely different matters and the Bahamas has shown itself to be in capable of systematically ensuring that some of the very good laws passed by Parliament are administered. We still don’t have a Freedom of Information Act so we don’t know what permits have or have not been issued, under what circumstances, and there was no consultation. These are fundamental underpinnings for transparency demanded by civil society for decades now.” 

Waterkeeper Bahamas’ Rashema Ingraham added that the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) commission which advises the government, had raised concerns in the past and asked BPC to give more information regarding its environmental protection protocols, but it is unclear if this was ever complied with. 

The environmental community called on the government of the Bahamas to respond to the Congress members’ letter promptly and to immediately revoke the exploratory license granted to BPC. 

Seasons Greetings

As we say goodbye to another year, and another decade we are thankful to you our supporters for your continued dedication to helping us preserve our beautiful environment for generations to come. This year has had its challenges but despite setbacks, it was still a wonderful year!

The work continues. We welcome 2020…..

Here are some of our 2019 achievements

  • Trained 12 student Cadets, who are now able to identify over 100 species of fish, coral and algae.  Also saw that 9 of those Cadets who didn’t have, received their open water SCUBA certification.
  • Conducted mangrove harvesting a replanting projects on Bimini and Grand Bahama, planting nearly 1,000 mangrove saplings in safer areas to build mangrove forest.
  • Returned with the Learn to Swim and Ocean Survival program with SwimTayka on Bimini and Grand Bahama where 150 children and adults were taught safe water methods for swimming and introduced to several environmental education topics such as coastal erosion and the mangrove web.
  • Implemented the Canal Clean Sweep initiative on Grand Bahama to highlight the impact that plastics and other marine debris are having on waterways which impacts small nurseries and safe movement of vessels.  With 4 sweeps under our belt, we have collected over 1500 small pieces of Styrofoam, glass, rope, aluminum and plastic pieces.
  • Expanded our water quality monitoring program for safe swimming at public beaches, collecting, processing and reporting on nearly 250 samples for Grand Bahama, Bimini and New Providence. Also increasing number of beaches monitored by 25% since 2018.
  • Scrutiny of the Oban deal and steps taken for legal action has seen the Government’s doubting its decision to agree to the oil refinery proposal.  This movement of the proposal is being closely monitored by STB, who stop at nothing to prevent the construction of the oil refinery in east Grand Bahama, home to one of the largest fresh water reserves in the country.
  • Successful engagement of people and government officials to meet with Robert Kennedy, Jr. during his visits to Grand Bahama, New Providence and Bimini.  Kennedy spoke to crowds on right to clean water as a human right and presented certificates of completion to students participating in swim program on Bimini.
  • Began water quality monitoring program on fresh water (groundwater well pumps) used by residents in small community outside the city after Hurricane Dorian so that these residents are aware of status of water being used for drinking and other household purposes.  Also partnered with Waves for Water to provide these homes with simple water filtration systems.
  • Formed coalition with 4 other local environmental NGOs to petition Disney and Government to withdraw plans for development of cruise at Lighthouse Point on Eleuthera island.

Happy Holidays