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Civic group concerned over oil company deal

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 01, 2013

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A civic group yesterday expressed outrage over recent comments made by Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) CEO Simon Potter over the company’s terms with the government on oil drilling.

The group said it plans to take its concerns to the British media to inform them that Bahamians will be shafted by the deal if any oil is struck.

“This deal is counter productive to the interest of the people of The Bahamas,” said Wesley Campbell, a trustee of The Bahamas National Citizens Coalition (BNCC), as he read a portion of a statement he said will be forwarded to British media.

“At worst it represents a blatant betrayal of the very principles of our constitution and therefore it cannot be allowed to stand.”

The BNCC believes that Bahamians will not get a large enough financial return if oil is struck under the current deal with BPC.

The group spoke out after Potter said the financial terms the company has obtained with The Bahamas government and the potential returns to investors from any oil strike would be “second to none, with a simple royalty” and likely to be “music to people’s ears”.

Potter was speaking at a gathering of potential investors in London earlier this month.

He also said while the government could seek to change these terms in the future, The Bahamas' "ultimate court of appeal is the Privy Council in London”.

BPC has a sliding-scale agreement with the government under which it would pay out anywhere from 12.5 percent to 25 percent of profits to the government depending on how much oil is extracted each day.

Campbell said Potter’s comments underscore the need for the government to make public its deal with BPC so the public can scrutinize it.

“Why hasn’t Potter put the contract that he seems to have so much confidence in, in the public domain so the Bahamian people can see this deal that he claims he has with the government?” he asked.

“If he is so concerned that his deal is such a good one then put it to the Bahamian people; don’t take it to England.”

Last week, Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett downplayed Potter’s comments concerning BPC’s financial agreement with the government.

Dorsett said he contacted Potter to ask about the comments, which appeared in Guardian Business, and Potter told him that he was misquoted.

However, The Guardian has an audio recording of Potter’s exact comments.

“At the end of the day I didn’t hear or read his statement,” Dorsett said.

“I only have what has been printed in the media. I won’t speak to Potter’s statements, but I’ve been made to understand that he was out there speaking to investors.

“If he has an opinion on the royalty provisions, which were negotiated eight years ago, that is certainly his opinion.”

Campbell also criticized Free National Movement Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner, who last week asked the government to release the details of the oil deal in the face of Potter’s comments.

However, Campbell said Butler-Turner was a part of the Ingraham administration, which renewed several of BPC’s oil exploration licenses in its last term.

“Their policy of stop, review and cancel seemed to avoid the very operation that has the capacity to deny Bahamians of their greatest natural resource,” he said.

The government has said that it will allow exploratory drilling to determine if the country has commercially viable oil reserves before it holds a referendum on the issue.

In July, the BNCC filed an action in the Supreme Court to block the minister of the environment and housing from issuing or renewing any oil exploration licenses.

BPC wants government approval to drill an oil well in Bahamian waters.

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