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2006-10-19 14:57:59

PM Says No Final Decision On LNG

Prime Minister Perry Christie indicated on Wednesday that his government has given no final approval to any company wishing to establish a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in The Bahamas.

Minister Leslie Miller, who has responsibility for LNG, added, "The heads of agreement for the proposed LNG has not been signed by the Government of The Bahamas. We have not signed off on that project yet as a Cabinet."

Montagu MP Brent Symonette suggested in the House of Assembly that the minister's answer to a question he had posed about LNG was merely "mumbo jumbo".

Prime Minister Perry Christie said the matter was a very simple one, and he pointed out that when his administration came to power in 2002, it met approvals in principle for LNG facilities in The Bahamas.

"The Progressive Liberal Party then decided [that] before we could go further, in addition to all of the environmental assessments and studies, we wanted to promulgate a policy that would guide LNG placement in The Bahamas," he explained.

"We went further. We asked for the minister responsible, who had done extensive work on it, to prepare all of the regulations so that when we move forward we have in place to present to the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, not just a decision of the Government of The Bahamas for LNG, but the circumstances in which LNG would exist."

The prime minister said the people who are going to be the successful applicants would have to be prepared to engage in the LNG industry in The Bahamas in accordance with the regulations that will be in place.

He said he saw no reason why the government should not bring regulations to parliament in support of LNG.

Mr. Symonette then pressed the government on whether it had advised the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it had approved an LNG project for The Bahamas.

Minister Miller said no US agency or any international agency has been told that the government has approved an LNG project.

The prime minister then added, "There is no doubt that the Government of The Bahamas has favourably considered, subject to environmental support, which we have, and subject to regulations being approved by the applicant companies [LNG projects]."

Mr. Christie noted that the LNG investors have been seeking approval for "a considerable period of time" and have expressed frustration over the wait.

"But we have tried to balance what we see as an obligation to the people of The Bahamas to try our best not to have them divide significantly over this issue, and so we have engaged in a process that has taken a lot of time, but in fact, we are now at the stage where the government has instructed our attorneys to prepare regulations and we are receiving advice from consultants abroad who are preparing the draft," the prime minister said.

Minister Miller said LNG regulations should be drafted within the next two weeks.

Over the summer, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson revealed to The Bahama Journal that the government was negotiating a heads agreement with the Virginia-based AES Corporation.

"This administration has decided that of course it will accept the prior administration's decision to adopt LNG as a part of our economy," Mrs. Maynard-Gibson said at the time.

"In other words, it means that wherever applicants actually satisfy the conditions of our LNG policy we will entertain applications [from] them and possibly enter into heads of agreement with those particular applicants. We're now in the process of negotiating a heads of agreement with AES."

AES intends to construct an LNG regasification terminal on Ocean Cay, near Cat Cay and Bimini, and run an LNG pipeline to South Florida to help meet that state's growing demand for energy.

But its plan has been delayed by strong objections raised by various interests, including environmentalists and wealthy Cat Cay residents who insist that the project would damage the environment, and even become a terrorist target.

On the other side of the issue are Bahamians like Minister Miller, who believe that LNG would be an important way to diversify the Bahamian economy.

The government still has on the table another LNG project being proposed by the Suez energy firm for Grand Bahama.

By: Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

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