EPP has the worst track record on environmental legislation

 Alternattiva Demokratika’s two candidates for the European Parliament (EP) election in June said yesterday that the Green group in the EP is the only group that has been consistent on the issue of air quality. AD chairperson Arnold Cassola addressed a press conference yesterday in the busy Zabbar Road in Fgura, together with fellow candidate for the EP election Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros, and AD spokesperson for energy, industry and transport Ralph Cassar.

Prof. Cassola said it is a known fact that traffic is one of the biggest sources of pollutants, but Fgura and the surrounding areas also receive a significant load from the Marsa power station, which the government said will be decommissioned by 2015. Prior to the referendum on Malta’s accession to the EU way back in 2003, he said, the government had promised the Maltese electorate that this power station would either conform to EU standards by the date of accession, or else close down.

Mr Cassar said members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected on the AD ticket would form part of the EP’s Green group, and this would guarantee a voice in favour of cleaner air. He said that a study carried out by Friends of the Earth (Europe) in 2004 (www.foeeurope.org/euvotewatch) showed that the European People’s Party (EPP) group – which the PN’s Simon Busuttil and David Casa now form part of – have the worst track record as regards environmental legislation. The study states that the EPP group had voted against strengthening environmental legislation about 80 per cent of the time between 1999 and 2004.

Mr Cassar said that a more recent example of Dr Busuttil and Mr Casa’s choice to side with the polluters is when they voted in favour of weakening existing EU targets on carbon dioxide emissions and postpone attainment of targets (Davies report, plenary vote 24 October 2007).

Prof. Cassola commented: “Does the government know whether the air quality limit values for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, as stipulated in the EU air quality directives, are being exceeded in busy roads such as Zabbar Road in Fgura, St Joseph High Road in Hamrun, Aldo Moro Road in Marsa, and Mrabat Road in Sliema, among others”.

Ms Ebejer Arqueros added: “I live in this area and the problem of pollution is very evident. Some years ago when I started teaching in a school here, the first thing that caught my attention was the large number of children on asthma medication.” She said AD has always been consistent on the issue of air quality, unlike some who talk about the environment days before an election, only to forget all about it the following day. The promises made on the Marsa power station in 2003 are a glaring testimony of how low air quality is on this government’s agenda, she said.

Prof. Cassola said an integrated approach is necessary to tackle the issue of pollution and poor air quality. First of all, the public transport system has to run for longer hours, be more frequent and reliable, he said. “Moreover, increasing the tree cover of the area, controlling sources of pollution such as the Marsa power station and the Marsa incinerator and creating more pedestrian zones are all tangible issues that could greatly improve air quality. “AD has the energy and experience to tackle these issues, while resisting the polluters’ lobby. It is consistent in working for improving people’s quality of life. It is in everyone’s interest to strengthen AD’s voice by electing AD MEPs on 6 June.”

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