by Larry Smith
So the story is that from before the 2012 general election the principals of what became known as Renew Bahamas and Stellar Energy were competing for the opportunity to exploit (under the PLP) the Harrold Road landfill - an epic environmental disaster.
Renew is a special purpose vehicle set up by a Swiss financier named Beukes. Stellar was set up by an Italian financier named Zanaboni.
Stellar wanted to build a multi-million-dollar waste-to-energy plant at the landfill - something that has been proposed by a range of local and foreign investors for years. Renew wanted to start a recycling operation at the landfill, and make money on the export sales.
The competition between Renew and Stellar over the landfill was said to be wrapped up in the obscure political rivalry between senior members of the government.
There were early noises in the Christie administration’s current term about a waste-to-energy solution for the landfill. But in late 2013 the government signed a five-year contract for Renew to take over the landfill.
A few months later, the parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Works signed a controversial “letter of intent” in support of Stellar’s waste-to-energy project.
No explanation was available for this document until recently, when court filings showed that the Finance Ministry had produced an earlier version of the letter for the Inter-American Development Bank in support of Stellar’s funding efforts.
Renew’s landfill contract sparked complaints about the lack of a proper tendering process. And the government has kept the contract secret, despite demands from opposition politicians, journalists and civic leaders.
The Harrold Road dump has never been properly operated, as is obvious from the toxic fires that explode every year - becoming more noticeable as housing estates encircle the once-remote landfill.
Early in this term, Environment Minister Ken Dorsett talked bravely about renewable energy. The stated goal was to turn the landfill into a solar farm and waste-to-energy plant. But just a few months later, Renew was in, Stellar was out, and all talk of renewable energy was put on hold.
As we noted at the time, Renew’s contract "required the indefinite postponement of a waste-to-energy plant, as well as the snubbing of a coalition of Bahamian waste management firms that had also been seeking to remediate the dump."
By all accounts, Renew invested a fair amount of money in its recycling operation and made genuine efforts to remediate the dump and reduce the incidence of toxic fires. But it was always an uphill battle.
Recently, the company’s principal - Gerhard Beukes - withdrew from the operation. And right after the hurricane, Renew collapsed - arguing that the government would not talk to them about a subsidy. The landfill is now back under government control.
Meanwhile, Stellar has filed a law suit against the government for allegedly reneging on its commitment (as documented by the notorious letter of intent) to support its waste-to-energy project.
So, here we are at the end of Christie’s second term no further ahead than when it began in 2012. And at the end of Ingraham’s last term, we were also no further ahead than when it began in 2007.
There’s no doubt about it. Our leaders can talk about change but they never actually get around to delivering it.