Government has been accused of cherry-picking projects for environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Speaking in the House of Assembly Tuesday during debate on amendments to the Offshore Petroleum Act, Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland acknowledged that one of the key changes being made to the 2012 legislation was an extension from 90 days to nine months of the time given to offshore drilling companies to carry out and present a detailed EIA.
The Opposition spokesman also said that while the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) did not have an issue with the amendment, it was concerned that the Freundel Stuart administration had been inconsistent in terms of its due diligence for major developments.
“My difficulty, Mr Speaker, comes when we seek to implement certain projects that are critical to Barbados’ sustainable development, but yet we want to circumvent the EIA studies in certain critical projects,” he said, before making reference to the controversial Cahill waste-to-energy project and the 15-storey Hyatt hotel development on Bay Street.
“These are some of the issues that I have with the Government of the day. You cannot come on one day and speak to EIAs being important in one sector, and then in another section of Government [it is not],” Sutherland stressed.
His comments come against the backdrop of strong opposition to the proposed $700 million Cahill project in which an agreement had been reached between Government and the Canadian firm back in March 2014 for the construction of a plasma gasification plant here.
Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe subsequently reported that Government had dumped the project.
However, there remains stiff resistance to the proposed construction of the Hyatt Centric on environmental grounds, with attorney-at-law David Comissiong currently taking legal action against Government for granting planning permission for the project and leading calls for a detailed EIA to be done.
“You [are] seeking to circumvent the EIA study, not only with the Cahill [project] but also with the Hyatt Hotel,” Sutherland charged.
“The Hyatt is onshore/offshore in my view, and if these projects are so critical to sustainable development in this country, why then we don’t be consistent in our thinking, views, and policies and regulations as it relates to our sustainable development goals? That is what you ought to do,” he contended.
While stressing that it was critical that EIA studies be done, he warned that the impact of not having them could be catastrophic, not only to the environment but also the economy.
“So the Prime Minister is putting the right cards on the table at this time, but I want him to be more consistent – him and his members – to put the right cards on the table all the time and not only when it suits you,” said Sutherland.