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2004-02-28 20:44:58

LNG And The Bahamas

Florida environmentalists recommend that Bahamians oppose the LNG pipeline projects.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Two environmental NGO leaders from the Sierra Club and a professor of Ocean Engineering from Florida Atlantic University traveled to the Bahamas in January to pay a courtesy call on the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission (BEST) and to meet with Mr. Keod Smith to discuss proposed LNG facilities.

Tractebel, AES, and Texas El Paso are proposing to build LNG gasification plants and pipelines to ship gas from the Bahamas to Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida. Environmental experts in Florida have been working with Bahamian environmental groups such as reEarth to study the effects of building LNG facilities and pipelines in the valuable Bahamian ecosystem.

Florida environmentalists recommend that Bahamians oppose the LNG pipeline projects on the following grounds:

* LNG is dangerous. According to published studies an LNG explosion could decimate a one square mile land area or more. An LNG related accident could be catastrophic, as witnessed in Algeria as recently as last month. Mexico predicts that a liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for Baja California could cause second-degree burns within 20 seconds for anyone within a mile of the project. Why risk the safety of Bahamians only to reward the American energy appetite?

* The construction will harm the Marine ecosystems. Does the Bahamas want to put their priceless marine treasures at risk for private profit? Human impacts have destroyed most of the coral reefs in the U.S. The Bahamians should heed that warning and not repeat the same mistakes. Dr McAllister states: "Marine construction is invariably destructive to the environment. The Tractebel project has already drilled eleven holes in the reef and inter-reef zones near Fort Lauderdale. The footprint of the jackup drilling rig has already resulted in damage to the live reef. A slip caused by currents, movement of the pipeline during construction, horizontal directional drilling, etc. could devastate acres of reef." In Florida alone, a marine survey for the pipeline area is resulting in the relocation of thousands of corals.

* Environmental Review: The B.E.S.T Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has had virtually no public review. The Bahamian people must have internet access to all LNG project EIAs and industry documents submitted to BEST, so that the citizens most affected by these projects are not required to travel to Nassau during a narrow timeframe to inspect a documents which can greatly impact their lives. Dr. McAllister states that "to examine the potential for massive damage to the Bahamian environment, the Tractebel EIA should be made available to the public on the internet, and in all major Bahamian libraries." The AES Project proposal and EIA report was only recently made available online, so the public must be given more time to evaluate that report.

* If permits are allowed, the operations should be monitored by independent experts from a university or environmental organization that does not have a financial stake in the project. The monitors should have the right to shut down the operation instantly should damage or imminent danger occur.

* LNG plants and pipelines will hurt tourism: American tourists spend money in the Bahamas precisely because it does not look like the U.S coastline. Does the Bahamas want to open their doors to building up their coastline until it looks like Florida, or worse, Louisiana or Texas? Tourism accounts for 40% of gross domesticated product (GDP) in the Bahamas, and employs 50% of the labor force. The impacts of LNG facilities and overdevelopment in the Bahamas will overwhelm the short term jobs and energy that they would provide.

* Once the door is open to cross-border energy transfers, any enforcements or permit denials for new projects could be subject to legal challenges resolved by secret international trade tribunals that are above national law, and circumvent the courts both in the US and the Bahamas. This is an even greater risk if the Bahamas joins the FTAA, which will expand NAFTA's dismal ten year record to many more countries. The precedent could result in a flood of energy facilities built in the Bahamas, soon making it look like the Mexico-US border. The Bahamas would become an industrial offshore colony to service the US for projects that are too dirty or too dangerous to have in the US.

* The Bahamas should not have to bear the burden of the United State's energy gluttony. While the U.S. has 5% of the world's population, they produce 25% of its greenhouse gases. Rather than conserving energy, they choose to shun the Kyoto protocol, and build a chain of power plants in neighboring countries to satisfy their appetite. The Bahamas would bear the danger, environmental damage, and loss of tourism, so the U.S. can get the energy.

* Floridians do not want LNG plants because of the danger and environmental hazards they pose. We feel that the LNG proponents are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build plants and pipelines from the Bahamas because they would not be able to overcome the permitting hurdles, negative public opinion, and liability of placing such plants in Florida.

We recognize that Mr. Smith is a champion of the environment in the Bahamas, and admire his courage in speaking against the tide in the interest of protecting the Bahamian environment, and ultimately the Bahamian people. We feel that he is following a prudent path in his position on the LNG pipeline. We support Mr. Smith's position, and encourage the Bahamian government to take a position against LNG facilities.


About the Sierra Club:

The Sierra Club is an environmental NGO with 750,000 members in the USA, including roughly 28,000 members in Florida, and 2,300 members in Broward County. Founded in 1892, it is the USA's oldest and most effective grassroots conservation group.

About Dr. Raymond McAllister

Dr. McAllister is Professor Emeritus, Ocean Engineering at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). He has a Ph.D. in Geological Oceanography, with a specialization in near-shore geology. He co-founded the FAU Ocean Engineering Department in 1965.

Pedro Monteiro, Sierra Club Florida Chapter (954-525-3324)
George Cavros, Sierra Club Broward Group Energy Issue Chair (954-835-1428)

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