[WATCH] PN calls on minister, Environment Authority 'to show teeth and oppose tanker'

Marthese Portelli and Ann Fenech urge José Herrera and the Environment and Resources Authority to oppose the LNG tanker in Marsaxlokk • Konrad Mizzi says PN against shift from heavy fuel oil to natural gas

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
15 December 2016, 3:41pm
Last updated on 15 December 2016, 6:30pm
PN calls on ERA to oppose LNG tanker
The Nationalist Party has urged the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and Environment Minister José Herrera to oppose the LNG tanker that will be berthed at Marsaxlokk bay, as part of the gas-fired power station project.

The ERA is set to decide whether to oppose the tanker or not on Monday at the end of a second public consultation session.

At a press conference held at the party's headquarters, PN executive president Ann Fenech took ERA chairman Victor Axiak to task for twice refusing a private meeting with her to discuss security concerns about the tanker prior to the second consultation session.

Her letter to Axiak highlighted concerns over whether the jetty was licensed, recounting how ElectroGas project manager Catherine Alpin had at the last public consultation told her that the certification had been passed on to Transport Malta. However, Fenech then asked the Harbour Malta to confirm this and he stood up to state that no such certification had been received.

In her letter, Fenech also complained that George Papadakis, the official of the UK-based Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulation who Electrogas had brought over to deliver a public presentation, has no interest in objectively assessing the project and that his agenda “is to approve this madness at all costs”.

She also demanded that Electrogas reply to the questions she had submitted in the last meeting before the next one, as well as that ERA provide them with a copy of the recording of the entire public consultation session as had been promised.

She told the press that she only found out that the next public consultation session, in which ERA will make a final decision on whether to oppose the tanker or not, through an email from Victor Axiak she had received yesterday.

“It is unacceptable in a democratic country for ERA to inform the public only two days in advance,” she said.  

Opposition MP Ryan Callus said that Monday will be the moment of truth for ERA, when it will prove once and for all whether it is a strong authority ready to safeguard the environment or whether it is “in bed with the government as the Planning Authority is”.

“The government had a mandate to split MEPA into two separate authorities, but the government had promised that ERA would be an authority with teeth.”

Shadow energy minister Marthese Portelli urged environment minister Jose Herrera to oppose the tanker, recounting how he had pledged to “rock the boat, if need be” shortly after taking over the role earlier this year.

“Not only has he not rocked the boat, but he has been completely silent throughout this whole process,” she said.

She insisted that a future PN administration would rip the government’s contract with ElectroGas up if it was found to have been signed in bad faith.

‘PN has no concrete plan on energy sector’ - Konrad Mizzi

Minister Konrad Mizzi in response accused the Opposition of trying to put spokes in the wheels of the power station project so as to prevent the country from shifting from heavy fuel oil to liquified gas as its main source of energy productions.

“The responses to their questions that they have demanded are already available freely available online on the public consultation website,” he said. “This means that the Opposition either wants to deceive people, or that it simply isn’t fact-checking its information.”

He said that the Opposition has no credibility to speak about the energy sector as it has no concrete plan for the future.

“The Opposition’s argument [to rip up the LNG power station contract] will mean that the old Marsa power station will have to remain open and that Malta’s energy will continue to be generated by the pollutant heavy fuel oil.”

Mizzi was sacked as energy minister earlier this year following revelations that he owned an offshore Panama company, but was kept on as a minister within the Office of the Prime Minister where he retains responsibility for energy affairs.