Letters to The Editor
10 Environmental Reasons The Bahamas Should Not Engage in Any LNG Facility
By Sam Duncombe, ReEarth
Sep 24, 2008 - 9:52:44 AM

This is a response to Rev. Dr. Emmette Weir's letter which appeared in The Tribune's Sept 20 2008 edition.

His first point is that an LNG facility would be "environmentally sound", and likens it to Clifton, where right under our noses we have issues of oil spills, dumping of spent oil, and toxic smog being emitted daily. As we have not come to grips with the proper regulation of Clifton, I would think that it would be in our childrens' best interest to get a handle on this before engaging in a new facility with new regulations. Unlike Clifton, which exists for our use and for which we can bear some environmental burden, the AES LNG facility will function for the most part for the need of Florida while we bear the environmental and safety burden in The Bahamas.

1.  "The LNG process itself poses a very serious long-term hazard to our global environment. LNG is not a renewable energy source. LNG is a dirty fossil fuel - no matter how hard someone tries to spin it.  You may wonder how dirty is LNG?

Actually, according to scientist at Carnegie Melon, LNG has 35% higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

In the September 2007 edition of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Carnegie Mellon researchers show that liquefied natural gas (LNG) imported from foreign countries and used for electricity generation could have 35 percent higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than coal used in advanced power plant technologies. The researchers point out that LNG has many indirect impacts compared to (US) domestic natural gas. LNG is natural gas that is extracted in a foreign country, then liquefied, then put into huge tankers to cross oceans, and then regasified before put into pipelines. Each of these steps and stages leads to indirect environmental impacts, such as carbon dioxide emissions from changing from the natural gas into a liquid, then transporting it, and then processing it back into natural gas again". (Tim Riley)

2.   43 miles of the pipeline will lay in Bahamian waters, however, only 10 miles of the route have been video surveyed.  Based on this incomplete survey, the decision was made that there would be "no damage to our seabed or sea life" . How can we know that if we do not know what is in the remaining 33 miles as there is no video documentation?

3.   Toxic smog-producing emissions from the gas energy plant could be as high as 1.2 tons daily, adding to green house gasses that cause global warming and sea level rise. With an average land mass 5ft above sea level, The Bahamas is in a very precarious condition. A recent World Bank Study, 'The Impact of Sea Level Rise on Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis,' states;
 "When the results are examined at the country level, one notes very significant differences within the region... The Bahamas would experience the largest percentage of impacted land:  Even with a 1 meter (3ft) Sea Level Rise (SLR), approximately 11% of the land area of The Bahamas would be impacted. This percentage reaches in excess of 60% under a 5 meter (25ft) SLR scenario. Cuba and Belize would also experience significant impacts, albeit at a much reduced scale when compared with The Bahamas". 

4.    Noise created by the barges and the laying of the pipelines will cause fish, whales and dolphins to abandon their natural routes. A recent study completed by International Fund for Animal Welfare, 'Ocean Noise : Turn it Down'  highlights growing concern about ocean noise pollution from scientists and international bodies including the United Nations. It reveals that man-made noise is already making it harder for marine mammals to use their own sounds or echo-location to find food, prey and mates, to navigate and form group bonds. 

We promote Bimini as the fishing capital of the world just 20 miles away from Ocean cay – yet AES' EIA claims there is no fish life in this area - Are people then catching phantom fish in the Biminis? Maybe we’re taken to practicing virtual fishing…how enlightened…

5. Initiated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2003, eighty four scientists conducted the most comprehensive study of its kind - 'The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Atlantic' - they found that the Florida Straits, the body of water between the Bahamas and southern Florida, have the Atlantic’s greatest concentration of endemic species – or species found no where else in the world.  Some of them have ranges so small that even localized human activities can cause their EXTINCTION! Threats to these marine animals also include destructive fishing methods, dredging of estuaries and harbours, and laying of natural gas pipelines on the sea floor.

6. Dr. Ray McAllister Prof. Emeritus Ocean Engineering who has dived and conducted environmental work for Marcona Ocean Industries, (the former owner of the aragonite mining facility at Ocean Cay), asks;  

“why are they boring under the reefs in Florida but laying the pipe on or through reefs in the Bahamas? Don’t the sensitive marine communities off Ocean Cay deserve the same protection as those off Florida?”  

Dr. McAllister’s work at Ocean Cay spans 50 years and he - quote “knows of no gap within the reef within a half mile of the ship channel, where the pipeline route is indicated".

Incidentally, what is the going rate of a reef these days? Can we put a price tag on a resource that once damaged takes hundreds or thousands of years to regenerate?

6.The AES EIA states;

“No findings of significant land or subsea cultural resources (including ship wrecks) were made during the baseline studies therefore no impact to cultural resources is expected.” 

But Dr. McAllister counters that statement with the following;  “There is a historically valuable shipwreck just north of the runway at Ocean Cay which both my son and two diving friends here in Florida have been on. It is a wooden ballast stone wreck which means probably 1700s or early 1800s.” Since Dr. McAllister’s diving trips to this area, he  "is not aware of any further exploration or conservation of the wreck". It seems that since Clifton The Bahamas has finally starting to wake up to other niches in tourism - in particular cultural heritage tourism, This is another avenue that The Bahamas can derive benefit from.

7. Other issues that concerns Dr. McAllister include possible hurricane damage, he continues… 

“There is also the danger of an uncontrolled breach of highly flammable gas flowing unchecked into the ocean and atmosphere.  If there is a breach from grounding ships, hurricanes, terrorist activities, this 24 inch pipe carrying gas at a pressure of 2200 psi would be discharging its gas into the water and atmosphere.  There will be a potentially highly flammable gas plume for many tens of miles. Which if ignited by a spark from an outboard motor, a cigarette carried by a fisherman, pleasure boater, or sparks from a grounding ship, may cause a major disaster.”

8. Dr. Stanislav Patin, a Russian specialist on environmental problems of the ocean, for over 40-years states in his book 'Environmental Impact of the Offshore Oil and Gas industry';

"The first important feature of interaction between gaseous traces and marine organisms is the quick fish response to a toxic gas. Gas rapidly penetrates into the organism (especially through the gills) and disturbs the main functional systems (respiration, nervous system, blood formation, enzyme activity, and others)....The interval between the moment of fish contact with the gas and the first symptoms of poisoning is relatively short...Further exposure leads to chronic poisoning. At this stage, cumulative effects at the biochemical and physiological levels occur.  A general effect typical for all fish is gas emboli. (an  air bubble carried in the bloodstream to lodge in a vessel and cause an embolism). The symptoms of gas emboli include the rupture of tissues (especially in fins and eyes), enlarging of swim bladder, disturbances of circulatory system, and a number of other pathological changes.”

9. The people of The Bahamas, over 5,000 of them have signed the Say NO to LNG petition. It is important to realise that   LNG facility and pipeline proposals are being fought by communities and public officials in the United States, Britain and Canada. LNG has already been rejected in Vallejo California; Eureka, California; Mobile, Alabama; Harpswell, Maine; and most recently, an LNG facility proposal off the coast of Malibu was rejected. 

Wherever LNG is proposed in the U.S. – it receives opposition. So it is no surprise that the energy industry would attempt to locate LNG facilities and pipelines somewhere else such as in The Bahamas where are laws and regulatory personnel are non existent .

10. Allowing an LNG facility to be built here would stifle if not suffocate any forward movement that may have been made toward creating a Bahamas that is free from fossil fuels into the future.   The way forward for producing energy, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, keeping millions of dollars in the country, lowering our energy bills, creating new jobs, protecting the environment from global warming green houses gasses, is to dive straight into the renewable energy market, not LNG, not coal, not oil.

I will address Rev. Dr. Weir's other comments regarding safety, jobs and economic impact in another letter. In the meantime I would invite Rev. Dr. Weir to visit and go to LNG Campaign to view reports posted there regarding various concerns that exist outside of The Bahamas to update himself on the issue of LNG. 

Sam Duncombe

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