Greens want full LNG report, PN says it’s ‘flawed’

OHSA says conservative approach still incorporated various worst-case scenarios on the siting of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) floating terminal inside Marsaxlokk harbour.

A report commissioned by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) to examine the risks of operating the Delimara gas-fired power plant was yesterday dismissed as "fundamentally flawed" by the Nationalist Party's president Ann Fenech.

Addressing a press conference in Birzebbugia together with MEP candidate Stefano Mallia, Fenech said the preliminary report had excluded the risk of immediate ignition, and was conservative about the effect of weather conditions.

The OHSA said that its conservative approach still incorporated various worst-case scenarios on the siting of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) floating terminal inside Marsaxlokk harbour.

The report, which concluded that the risks related to the transport of gas and its use as an energy source was small, was also criticised by the Green Party who insisted that the "report forms part of a wider study".

"Does this mean that there exists a more detailed study explaining the questions arising from Vaccari's preliminary risk assessment?" Alternattiva Demokratika's Carmel Cacopardo asked, highlighting the devastating impact of a possible accident raised by Roberto Vaccari in his risk assessment, that was included in the Delimara gas plant's environment impact assessment, but that is neither explained not refuted in the OHSA report.

The OHSA report, published upon the AD's insistence, concluded that natural gas clouds generated by the plant do not pose a danger since they are released in "ignition-free" areas.

Ann Fenech, a maritime lawyer by profession, pointed out that no maritime impact assessment had been yet carried out, with a MEPA decision on the gas plant now scheduled for the 24 March.

Stefano Mallia remarked that it was "ironic" that government was ignoring the residents of Marsaxlokk and Delimara despite the numerous public consultation meetings it held. A survey of 105 and 32 Marsaxlokk and Birzebbugia residents found that 66% and 78% respectively prefer a floating LNG terminal that could eventually make way for a gas pipeline: but 85% of Marsaxlokk respondents and 91% of Birzebbugia respondents also said they preferred locating the LNG terminal further offshore.

Mayor replies to anonymous letter

Earlier this week, a letter sent to the Prime Minister and energy minister Konrad Mizzi, apparently authored by Marsaxlokk residents, accused the government of "betraying" them by having the LNG-storage vessel anchored inside the village's picturesque bay.

The vessel is crucial to the new 200MW LNG plant, which will supply the gas through a regasification unit aboard.

While Labour mayor Edric Micallef had previously accepted this as a temporary solution, the "anonymous residents" don't share this view.

Indeed, a month ago the mayor told MaltaToday he was satisfied with the way public consultation was taking place, and that the council wanted the ship anchored further offshore outside the harbour. "In all our reports we insisted on the tanker being located further offshore. We still want it outside the port," Micallef had said.

Now in his reply to the anonymous letter, Micallef made no reference to relocating the vessel. Instead he said the floating storage, instead of two onshore tanks 'the size of the Mosta church' next to the power plant, would not only reduce the visual impact but also security risks. "When the country will have other sources of gas, such as a gas pipeline, it will be easier to remove the vessel than dismantle tanks on land," he said.

He also called on residents not to fall for the Opposition's newfound concern for the south of Malta, "after having left us to inhale the pollution from the power station and proposing the construction of an incinerator in Marsaxlokk."

The anonymous letter echoed arguments brought forward by the PN, saying the LNG terminal will have a negative impact on the value of property, and asked why they were paying the price for government's "haste" and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's promise to resign if the project was not completed in time.

Additional reporting by Jerome Caruana Cilia