Environment Minister Ken Dorsett said the government would not require a national referendum - as previously promised - before going ahead with licensed exploratory oil drilling. He added that an updated regulatory framework would be implemented before drilling takes place.
"The new regulations are substantially complete already and will be presented to Cabinet very shortly," Dorsett said. "Exploration drilling is of course the only way the Bahamian people will be able to get a scientific answer to the burning question as to whether petroleum reserves even exist in commercial quantities in our waters. Obviously, we are not going to have a referendum on a hypothetical proposition.
"If during the course of licensed exploration activities, commercial quantities of oil are, in fact, discovered in our waters, we would then engage the Bahamian people in an extensive public information programme to ensure that all important facts are laid before the people for their consideration and discussion, well in advance of a national referendum on the matter."
As part of this public information process, he said, the government would provide a timeline for production and engage in a national dialogue on how oil revenues should be used. Exploration data will not be available until late 2014 or early 2015.