Although the infrastructure at the gas power station is ready it appears that another two months will pass before the generation of electricity using LNG can start. This was revealed during the programme Dissett which discussed the arrival of the LNG tanker and the gas power station with politicians and experts. Meanwhile the Health Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority replied to a letter from the Leader of the Opposition assuring him that all the necessary regulations, including those for the gas tanker, are being followed.
Minister Konrad Mizzi said that once the ERA issues its environmental permit for the gas power station, Electrogas will generate electricity within three weeks.
“The project is ready – the construction phase is ready and in the next few days the ship will be anchored to the pier. Once the ERA issues the permit, three weeks need to pass for Electrogas to start producing electricity”, said Minister Mizzi.
During Dissett, Minister Mizzi added that public consultation is planned to begin next week and on the first day of consultation all the reports will be published. He said that around 20 foreign consultants who prepared the report will be coming to reply to any difficulty which may arise. He said that the studies have been taking place for the last two years, and all the measures and recommendations have been implemented.
Minister Mizzi said that the Government does not plan to keep the tanker for the entire 18 years but it will only stay in Marsaxlokk until the gas pipeline between Malta and Sicily is ready. The pipeline is expected to be ready within the next three years.
“Next year we will apply for the permits. Once the permits are ready, its construction will take between 24 – 36 months. That is the estimate we have been given, obviously it also depends on permits from Italy.”
Questioned about the Panama Papers, Minister Mizzi said that he was sorry that because of his political mistake, suspicious were raised which have diverted attention from what was being done in the energy sector. He said that two audits are underway about his actions.
“The independent audit, from the discussions I have had with the Prime Minister, is being paid for by me. The tax audit by the tax auditor is being carried out from Government resources,” said Dr Mizzi.
When asked to identify someone by name who is corrupt, with reference to the gas tanker, Shadow Minister Marthese Portelli replied::
“The Minister is responsible, in fact I wil go further (but he is corrupt in this case), it is the Minister responsible for all the contracts which have not been published, who opened secret accounts in Panama, and in his own memorandum and company articles said that one of his aims to was to receive commissions,” said Portelli.
During Dissett, ERA director Michelle Piccinino said that although the project has been finished, the environmental permit will only be issued when all the criteria are satisfied.
“If the authority is not satisfied with the whole process and all the measures which are being taken, it can say no (although this is far-fetched). I don’t think it is absolutely far-fetched because otherwise we will be devaluating the role of the Authority’s board completely”, said Ms Piccinino, who is an architect by profession.
Meanwhile, the ERA in a statement assured the public that the procedures and necessary studies will reach the obligations required by law and the protection of residents’ safety. The Chairman of the Authority, Prof Victor Axiak also wrote this in a letter sent to the Opposition Leader, Simon Busuttil.
Prof Axiak said that the public will be able to see all the reports in the days to come as part of the application process which the Authority will be considering for the issuing of the environmental permit.
Even the Health and Safety Authority has assured the Opposition Leader that the switch to gas will be carried out with all the necessary preventive measures and controls which are stipulated by the Seveso directive, which forms part of Maltese law.
The Authority’s Chairman, Deo Debattista, said that in another letter to the Leader of the Opposition in answer to Dr Busuttil’s letter asking for the tanker not to enter Marsaxlokk until the reports are published, Dr Debattista replied that the Health and Safety Authority, together with other entities, was fulfilling all its obligations and functions according to the regulations on the control of major industrial accidents involving dangerous chemicals which came into effect with the Seveso directive.