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2005-05-23 09:19:01

LNG Debate to Explode Again

Environmental organisation plans demonstration to coincide with one of the most important sittings of the House of Assembly.

Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller has had little to say publicly over the last two weeks on the controversial liquefied natural gas projects being proposed for The Bahamas, but a local environmental group, reEarth, plans to shove the debate back into the spotlight this week.

Sam Duncombe, spokesperson for the group, announced during a press conference in Rawson Square on Sunday that reEarth supporters will stage a protest against LNG in downtown Nassau on Wednesday.

The demonstration will coincide with one of the most important sittings of the House of Assembly. It is at that time that the government plans to bring its 2005-2006 budget to parliament.

Mrs. Duncombe and her group continue to insist that bringing LNG plants to The Bahamas would be bad news. They believe that they would have a serious adverse impact on the environment and would also be a terrorist target.

ReEarth continues to make the claims, even though The Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission has already determine at least one of those projects, the one being proposed by AES, would be feasible in The Bahamas.

Presently, the Government of The Bahamas is considering a proposal for the AES energy corporation for Ocean Cay, off Bimini. It is also in discussions with El Paso, Tractebel, and Florida Power and Light, which is pushing a separate proposal for Grand Bahama.

Both groups plan to lay LNG pipelines to Florida to meet the sunshine state's growing demand for energy.

But Mrs. Duncombe believes that not enough Bahamians are educated on this issue, which she said could have a serious impact on their future.

"We have got to be aware of what is going on by listening to the news and reading the papers and get involved with what is going on because that is the only way we are going to affect change," she told reporters.

"That's the only way we are going to make the parliamentarians understand that we do care and that we want in on the [decision making] process."

According to Mrs. Duncombe, over 2,000 persons have signed a petition against the proposed LNG projects.

She said that during the demonstration, more members of the public would have an opportunity to sign the petition.

The government had planned an LNG town meeting two weeks ago, but Minister Miller later announced that it was postponed indefinitely due to the prime minister's illness.

"The government won't hold a meeting to let us know what is going on, so basically we are having a meeting in the street to say that we have definite problems with the project, and how government is handling the project on a whole," Mrs. Duncombe said.

She said that Bahamians need to think about the potential risks associated with LNG plants for The Bahamas.

Mrs. Duncombe also said that while she does not believe that a company would build a shoddy plant, accidents do happen and if the energy companies cannot guarantee safety then they should not be allowed to bring their projects to The Bahamas.

"I'm not saying that we should not go after other investments, but I think that it is our government's duty to look for investments that are in harmony with our country," Mrs. Duncombe said. "That goes for the environment and the people, and that is not LNG."

But Minister Miller believes that if environmental groups like reEarth are allowed to have their way, there would be no development in The Bahamas.

"It is just their thing," said Minister Miller, when he appeared on Love 97's "Jones and Company" several weeks ago.

"They simply don't want it. If LNG was a problem, the United States has five such terminals on its shores-there has not been a loss of life at a re-gasification terminal in 40 years.

"There has not been a loss of life on a ship since its inception. There is this perception that they are putting out there to the public that is grossly unfair to the Bahamian people."

At the time, he also reiterated his government's commitment to making a sound decision on LNG that would be in the best interest of Bahamians.

By: Stephen Gay, The Bahama Journal

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