THE BAHAMAS ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION
The Bahamas is an island country made up of 700 smaller islands located off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. The country’s unique landscape consists mostly of flat, rocky terrain with low shrubs covering the land. Known for its clear blue waters, The Bahamas has a rich ecosystem that is home to over 100 species of plants and animals only found in the Island of The Bahamas. Furthermore, 5% of the world’s coral reef can be found in the waters of The Bahamas, including the world’s third longest barrier reef. The islands are made up of fossil coral and oolitic limestone as they were created as a result of disintegration of coral reefs and seashells.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
The Minister of the Department of Environmental Health Services (“Minister”) and the Director of the Department of Environmental Health Services (“Director”) are the key authorities in this field of regulation. The main piece of environmental protection legislation is the Environmental Health Services Act, 1987, which indicates that “[a]ny person who … deposits in, adds to, emits or discharges into the environment any contaminant or pollutant or who permits the deposit, emission or discharge into the environment of any contaminant or pollutant is guilty of an offence” (see section 7). For purposes of the mining industry, the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas Act, 1997 is also important, as this legislation regulates any excavation, landfill operation, quarrying or mining of physical natural resources exceeding certain volumes and certain large scale developments (see section 3(a)–(c)).
Section 7 of the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas (1997) gives the Director of Physical Planning (“Director”) the authority to require an applicant to submit “an assessment of the possible impact of that excavation, or landfill operation, upon the environment” along with the application. This assessment shall include wildlife habitat history of the location identified in the application for proposed excavation or landfill operation, historical background, and other features of that location as may be necessary. In 2005, draft regulations entitled “Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of 2005” were prepared to establish the procedures for governing environmental impact assessments (“EIAs”). The draft regulations have never been passed.
The draft EIA regulations would clarify that an EIA should be a study conducted to determine whether projects are environmentally acceptable (section 2) and further define “environmentally acceptable” projects as being those that:
(a) comply with all established environmental standards and requirements;
(b) are environmentally beneficial or have no impact or no negative environmental consequences;
(c) are deemed suitable for the granting of an Environmental Clearance and Environmental Permit to Operate.
Project proponents would be required to obtain both an Environmental Clearance and an Environmental Permit to Operate via the EIA process before commencing operation of any proposed project. Projects subject to the EIA requirement would be categorized into two categories: A or B (section 6). A project that is larger and more complex and are “expected to have several, wide-ranging, sever, and/or complex impacts on the environment, or expected to affect sensitive or unique environments” would fall within Category A, and would require a full EIA. A project with few or limited associated impacts on the environmental would fall within Category B, and would require only a Basic Environmental Assessment (“BEA”) (section 6(a)–(b)).