Regulations to govern the mining industry, the introduction of a National Forest Bill, the introduction of a Bahamas Wildlife Enforcement Network Bill, and amendments to the Environmental Planning and Protection Act, are among the legislative measures that the Government proposes.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister the Hon. Vaughn Miller outlined the measures in his contribution to the evening session of the House of Assembly Monday, October 30, 2023 during the resolution to accept the Governor-General’s speech from the Throne.
Said Minister Miller, “In this session of Parliament, therefore, the Government proposes “to regulate mining to provide a proper framework to prevent the unlawful exploitation of aragonite, which has gained prominence in recent years, as the international glass-making industry, recognizing the high level of purity, seeks to import large quantities. There will be a defined royalty framework to ensure that Bahamians benefit from this valuable resource.”
Minister Miller informed parliamentarians that the proposed National Forest Bill will endeavor to ensure that the green economy and the nation’s forests are given the necessary regulatory framework to support environmental security.
The Bahamas Wildlife Enforcement Network Bill will, “establish an armed law enforcement agency dedicated to enforcing all laws with regards to our nation’s natural resources”. This agency will be responsible for protection of endangered species of plants and animals.
Moreover, Minister Miller said, “There will also be [an] amendment to the Environmental Planning and Protection Act to provide for a more stream-lined application of the law to Bahamian-owned small developments.
“The proposed amendments to the Environmental Planning and Protection Act will include the introduction of Spot Fines under the legislation and provide for increases to the penalties already listed.
An added regulation is also proposed that will reduce the work load on the Department and provide for increased ease of doing business. Currently, the legislation is interpreted as “No Work without Environmental Clearance.” This means that any construction, renovation, no matter how simple or non-intrusive, requires a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP). We have processed applications for fences. This was not the intention of the law.
Furthermore, “The proposed regulation will allow for small building construction for residences and small businesses up to a fourplex, as long as the activity is not in an environmentally sensitive area. It will also waive a requirement for a CEC in an approved subdivision.
“Also, spot-fines ($5,000) will be administered for any environmental damage resulting from violations of the Act; [and] administered by officers in the DEPP. The matters will be adjudicated in the Magistrate’s Court.”