The V.I. Senate Thursday approved a Coastal Zone Management permit for Limetree Bay Terminals to build a mooring and underwater pipeline, which would allow larger and more full ships to offload oil at the terminal.
Thursday’s approval was expected, as the issue had been vetted Wednesday during a Committee of the Whole session. But it was not easy.
Thursday’s session was to start at 10 a.m. but there were several delays and once the debate started and it became so heated that the session had to be recessed to give members time to calm down.
Vocally opposing the measure was Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson. Nelson asserted that the permit could not be legally added to the agenda because proper notice had not been given to the public or the senators saying it would be considered. He said he had not had enough time to consider the bill’s effects “which could be detrimental to our environment, our way of life and our economy.”
However, the permit allowing Limetree to install a mooring and underwater piping for larger and fuller ships to transport oil to and from the storage facility on St. Croix’s south shore, was added to the agenda over his objections.
Nelson said the pipeline would be two miles long and “A pipe line will leak.” The aquifers on St. Croix had already been damaged, he said, asking his colleagues, “Do you know how precious water is?”
Voting against the permit were Sens. Nelson, Tregenza Roach, Dwayne DeGraff, and Janette Millin Young.
Roach pointed out the lack of higher ups from Limetree present at the Committee of the Whole Wednesday to answer questions pertaining to its fulfilling contractual obligations.
“My major concern is that the agreement requires that 50 percent of Virgin Islanders obtain managerial positions and whether that was fulfilled remains unanswered,” he said.
Sen. Sammuel Sanes said the permit has been publicly up for discussion for two years and if any senator had questions about the permit they could have picked up the phone to get the answer. He also said the bill was properly vetted by CZM.
Sen. Novelle Francis Jr. voted for the permit but said the concerns of those against the permit were legitimate. He mentioned Climate Change. Climate Change has been cited as a cause of more powerful hurricanes. The Virgin Islands were hit with two Category 5 hurricanes within two weeks last year. Not in recorded history have two storms like that hit the islands in such a short period.
Millin Young said for her, the main issue was employment.
“I am not happy that this measure was discussed in the Committee of the Whole yesterday and then placed on the agenda today. I want Limetree and any other businesses to succeed,” she said. “However, the major issue was employment. … There was no information on the employment breakdown as it relates to the percentage of Virgin Islanders to be hired by Limetree.”
“This is just a formality,” said Sen. Neville James before casting his vote with the majority..
Senators also voted favorably to move two other bills forward for the governor’s consideration.
One bill would add to the V. I. Code a section delegating who shall serve as the chairman of the St. Croix District Board for two years during the rebuilding process of the Juan Luis Hospital and the second relates to the distance from the elections polls in where electioneering is prohibited.
Senators present were Myron Jackson, Millin Young, Nelson, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Novelle Francis, James, Roach, Brian Smith, Jean Forde, Dwayne DeGraff, Kurt Vialet, Janelle Sarauw, Marvin Blyden and Sanes.