Environment permit for new gas power station approved

With eight votes in favour and one against, the Environment and Resources Authority today approved the environmental permit for the new gas power station for the coming four years.

The decision was taken after a public consultation meeting which started this morning at 9.00 am and was met with applause by those present.

The permit, known as IPPC permit, also covers the LNG terminal and the gas tanker which will be operated by Electrogas. The permit also covers the conversion of the BWSC plant into gas instead of Heavy Fuel Oil.

The new facility is expected to start operation in the middle of February.

Hereunder: the meeting as it evolved during the day/strong>

The system that will exit the gas tanker outside the harbour in bad weather has a guarantee of around 100 years. This was stated by the project manager of Electrogas, Catherine Halpin, during the meeting of the Environment and Resources Authority which started this morning to decide whether to grant the environment permit for the operation of the gas power station as planned.

The meeting was led by Carmen Buttigieg instead of ERA Chairperson Prof Victor Axiak, who presented a declaration in which he stated that he might have a conflict of interest because he was the independent consultant in the impact assessment for this project and therefore he felt he could not be involved in any part of this process.

Catherine Halpin said that the spread mooring system which will be moving the tanker out to sea when there is bad weather, is designed on a system which gives a 100 year guarantee. The fishing boats and other sea vessels will be allowed to pass near the tanker. She said that the project will be looking towards more protection of environmental and maritime aspects while it will be taking precautions to ensure security on site according to directives.

Update 1:

Transport Malta representative confirmed that both the ship, the storm mooring system and the jetty have the required standards certification. It was pointed out that an area that excludes other seacrafts nearby when the tanker is moored should be in place, with the exclusion zone should be more wider when fuel is being provided, a procedure that has to take place every eight weeks, or when the tanker needs to exit the harbour due to bad weather. He added that during the exit process of the tanker outside the harbour, the two captains on board the ship will be accompanied by four tugboats. Small sea crafts entering and exiting the area will have access on the Ħas Saptan side, from outside and inside, and with free access.

During the presentation by the Civil Protection Department, the difference between the gases LNG and LPG was explained. It was remarked that workers of the department in the past months underwent training on the necessary action, including in the worst of situations that might occur. The representative also said that the Civil Protection invested in new equipment due to the changeover of the power station to gas, while mentioning that for now they will be working from a temporary fire station and a new one will be built near the plant.

Update 2:

Engineer Arthur Ciantar asked where in Maltese legislation one can justify deaths when he referred to the phrase “the number of fatalities is acceptable”. He said that if this is not approved by Parliament, legally it can be challenged, and he is ready for this. He asked what is the amount of acceptable deaths.

He added that while he and Architect Carmel Cacopardo have been long telling the authority about shortcomings in the proceeding in place since 2014, these were not amended. On the emergency plan, he said that the CPD has already completed it, and this is not a provisional plan. He stated that there was no consultation with the public as provided by the Seveso 3 – he stated that while there were public consultation meetings, he had only two meetings which are not enough and he is ready to contest the decision.

Update 3:

The Nationalist Party President, Ann Fenech, said that in 2014 the MEPA board had decided on a maritime impact assessment, but nothing is in place as necessary. She quoted on what happened in Klaipida in Lithuania and La Spezia, which do not have the same situation as Marsaxlokk. According to Dr Fenech, Seveso 3 was not observed and stated that testing by CPD should be held before operation and not when everything is in place.

On the mooring and the jetty, Dr Fenech referred to the reports on which she stated that there are shortcoming on the piles of the anchorage; she asked how the mooring system will work in two-metres high waves, and the jetty’s resistance to high waves. She said that a geologist can explain that the place were a rock fell is behind the jetty, and if the jetty was there, the piping would have been punctured.

TM confirmed that it received the mooring and jetty certification on Sunday.