Incinerator study rewritten to avoid ‘conflict of interest’ flagged by Cacopardo

The Environment and Resources Authority asked Wasteserv to prepare another EIA for its incinerator proposal after a conflict of interest flagged by ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo

A photomontage of the incinerator proposed by Wasteserv in Magħtab
A photomontage of the incinerator proposed by Wasteserv in Magħtab

A study on the impact of the proposed incinerator at Magħtab had be written again by a new coordinator to avoid a conflict of interest.

The Environment and Resources Authority has confirmed that it asked WasteServ, the government waste agency, to prepare new Environmental Impact Assessment, following “allegations of possible conflict of interest”.

The new EIA report has now been issued again for public consultation for another six-weeks period.

While the first EIA was coordinated by environmental consultant and Greenpak CEO Mario Schembri, the latest EIA is coordinated by environmental consultant Joe Doublet.

An ERA spokesperson confirmed that the board took this decision after a number of representations made during the public consultation process for the first EIA which included “allegations of possible conflicts of interest”.

“ERA hence requested the developer to present a new coordinated assessment which will now be subjected again to the required procedure. ERA will endeavor to continue the EIA process for this critical piece of national infrastructure in the most transparent manner possible,” the authority told MaltaToday.

ERA had already organized a public hearing on the original EIA in December.

During the meeting ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo had flagged a conflict of interest on the part of EIA coordinator Mario Schembri, who as owner of Greenpak has “a contractual relationship with Wasteserv”.

Cacopardo claimed that Schembri could not be independent or impartial.

Schembri had rebutted, insisting he is an expert in the field and the fact that he is operating at various levels in the industry doesn’t mean that he has a conflict of interest. 

“My opinion is based on reason, on logic and therefore I see that I carry no conflict of interest in this instance,” Schembri had said.

In a statement on Tuesday, ADPD said that Cacopardo's submissions regarding the first EIA have today been proven right, since the EIA on incineration has been reissued for consultation.

“This is a welcome development. ERA and the government should do their job and make sure that their processes are fair and seen to be fair. It is basic good governance that conflicts of interest are regulated and that regulators, operators in the sector and consultants keep their roles clear and separate. The rule of law matters in environmental issues too,” ADPD said.

The latest EIA still includes a technical chapter assessing the ecological impact of the new plant which is co-authored by marine biologist Alan Deidun who was also accused of harboring a conflict of interest by Cacopardo. 

Cacopardo had warned that as a member of the board of ERA Deidun will also “be expected to sit in decisions” related to the issue of environmental permits for the plant based on the information contained in the EIA.

Deidun had already declared that every time a project involving him as a consultant is discussed at ERA board level, he excuses himself completely from such proceedings.

“This has happened perhaps a maximum of five times since the start of my tenure on the ERA Board in February 2016. Similarly, other ERA board members have faced such predicaments and they all punctually similarly excused themselves,” Deidun had said.

Cacopardo had argued that this would result in Deidun abstaining from giving his input as a representative of environmental NGOs on an important project.