Offshore Drilling Set To Start Off Florida Alarms Environmentalists : NPR

Environmentalists warn that exploratory drilling, like that set to start later this month, could be as or extra harmful that actaul extraction.

Arvind Vallabh /Getty Photographs

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Arvind Vallabh /Getty Photographs

Environmentalists warn that exploratory drilling, like that set to start later this month, could be as or extra harmful that actaul extraction.

Arvind Vallabh /Getty Photographs

President Trump lately signed an order extending a ban on drilling in U.S. waters within the Atlantic. However within the Bahamas, a small firm has acquired permission to start doing exploratory drilling simply 150 miles from the Florida coast.

Bahamas Petroleum Firm is headquartered on the Isle of Man, a part of the UK, however has workplaces within the Bahamas. Extra importantly, it has leases on potential oil fields overlaying some four million acres in waters between Andros, the nation’s largest island, and the north coast of Cuba. A high-tech drill ship, the Stena IceMAX, is anticipated to be onsite and able to start drilling mid-December.

“It is one thing that is being rushed into prematurely with out enough environmental safety in place,” says Casuarina McKinney-Lambert with the Bahamas Reef Setting Instructional Basis.

BREEF is a part of a coalition of environmental teams and ecotourism companies which can be elevating alarms about plans for a drilling operation that, up until now, has drawn little consideration.

The corporate did an environmental influence evaluation and acquired approval from the Bahamian authorities. However McKinney-Lambert notes that although the corporate has tried to reassure critics stressing that that is simply an exploratory properly, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe within the Gulf of Mexico additionally got here from exploratory drilling.

“Exploratory wells could be much more harmful than extractive wells,” she says. “We’re very involved about that and the potential for a big spill. However, we’re additionally involved concerning the day-to-day operations.”

BPC has declined requests for interviews. In paperwork it has filed, the corporate says the drilling web site might be some 90 miles from a nationwide park on Andros Island.

It is not removed from the place Shawn Leadon operates a fishing lodge, the Andros Island Bonefish Membership, and an ecotourism enterprise, Andros Outside Adventures. The nationwide park contains the most important estuary within the Bahamas. Leadon says it is an incubator for marine species which can be essential to all the Caribbean.

“Provided that reality, why would you wish to put any type of proposal that is going to be damaging to that?” he asks. “Not solely is it going to wreck my enterprise, it will harm the fisheries. It is going to harm the airline trade. It is a domino impact.”

A coalition of companies and environmental teams, Our Islands, Our Future has gathered some 50,000 signatures on a petition asking the Bahamian authorities to cancel all oil exploration licenses and ban offshore drilling. If there is no response, the group says it would take authorized motion to dam the drilling. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis hasn’t responded to an interview request.

A giant query is what occurs if there is a main spill. Eight years in the past, when Cuba was making ready to drill exploratory wells in its waters, the U.S. Coast Guard and Cuban authorities labored out an in depth settlement on how they might coordinate their response. Up to now, the Coast Guard hasn’t stated what its position might be if there is a spill within the Bahamas.

Jorge Pinon, head of the Latin American and Caribbean Vitality program on the College of Texas, says the Bahamas does not have the sources or experience to reply to a significant spill.

“It might be america that must come and maintain the remediation, maintain stopping the spill,” Pinon says. “So definitely, we want one thing on paper that claims who’s going to be in command.”

The potential for an oil spill is not an issue only for the Bahamas. The exploratory properly is positioned simply north of Cuba and near the Gulf Stream. An oil spill could be a catastrophe for all the area.

“Due to the prevailing currents, it is seemingly that it might first ricochet off Andros Island after which up way of the Southeast coast of Florida. It may additionally have an effect on Cuban waters and Cuban reefs as properly. Every thing is linked,” says Dan Whittle, with the Environmental Protection Fund.

Eight years in the past, Cuba’s makes an attempt to search for oil got here up empty. Even so, trade specialists say the geology signifies there must be oil reserves within the space. If this effort is profitable within the Bahamas, it would enhance the strain to drill elsewhere within the space — off Cuba and presumably, even off the coast of Florida.

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