23 July 2011

Statians appeal to UNESCO to prevent oil terminal expansion

Daily Herald

ST. EUSTATIUS--St. Eustatius Awareness and Development (SEAD) Movement, Statia Roots Foundation (SRF) and historian and Head of Monuments Walter Hellebrand launched an appeal Sunday with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in a bid to prevent the expansion of the NuStar terminal.

SEAD further launched a petition Monday against the projected construction of a second oil terminal in The Farm, while SEAD and SRF sent an open letter to the Executive Council on Sunday, in which they expressed their concerns about the "consequences and effects" of the expansion plans.

NuStar, which currently has 58 oil storage tanks on Statia with a capacity of more than 13 million barrels, wants to establish a new facility on the island with an additional 40 tanks and another jetty.

The petitioners believe that, considering the small scope of the 21-square-kilometre island, the expansion is out of proportion, while there are also concerns about safety, pollution and damage to coral reefs and marine life.

However, according to petitioners, the main point of concern is the location of the planned expansion, which they claim is a very valuable historical site with several slave cemeteries and other historical remains.

"The cemeteries are an essential part of the historical heritage of the people of St. Eustatius (as African descendants) and are of extreme value for the whole Caribbean region. They cannot be destroyed by bulldozers and replaced by oil tanks," they wrote in the letter sent to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

SEAD representative Kenneth Cuvalay, SRF President Paul W. Spanner and Hellebrand claim to represent a "group of concerned citizens [...] fighting against a multi-billion-dollar multinational." They fear that the local government, with its limited resources, would not be an equal partner in the discussions with NuStar.

According to the letter's three authors, the island government would be open to the expansion, because of the supposed extra tax income and the creation of new jobs.They are requesting UNESCO's aid in legal advice and counselling and are also seeking UNESCO's help in reaching out to the international community to prevent the expansion and to write a letter of concern to the island government.

In Sunday's letter to the Island Council, which was signed by SRF President Spanner and Secretary G. Berkel, as well as by Cuvalay, it was stated that a second oil terminal south of Signal Hill, in full view of most of the used part of the island, with a jetty for four mega-tankers right at the end of the beach of Lower Town, would seriously hamper any future development of tourism as a second economic pillar of the island.

SEAD is calling on Statians to sign a petition, which was launched Monday, expressing disapproval of NuStar building an oil terminal in The Farm and approval of NuStar seeking expansion of its oil terminal at the current location.