The PM’s laboratory rats


The PM’s laboratory rats

Earlier this month we had Nationalist and Labour MPs playing their
usual game of cat-and-mouse in parliament. What was supposed to be a discussion about the Delimara power station extension ended up in
schoolyard drama.

Someone was too sleepy and voted with the Opposition. Tonio Borg chose to play the dirty game and insist that a Labour MP voted with the government. The victim of all these shenanigans is the public, public health, the environment and also important reforms, since the Labour Party decided to walk out of the parliamentary committee on party financing and electoral reform. The connection between Tonio Borg’s lies and this committee is hard to make. In a tribal style of politics anything goes.

The real issue remains the extension of the Delimara power station. This issue confirms further that the Prim Minister’s and the Nationalist Party’s talk about environment being a main pillar of its policies is nothing but hot air. The reality is that ecological politics is not part of the PN’s ideology. It is just window dressing for election campaigns and that’s that. Government can wish away the Auditor’s report as much as it likes. Austin Gatt can rubbish the Auditor to his heart’s content. The report confirms one thing very clearly: the environment and health are not high on this government’s agenda. The low weighting given to clean technology in the tender is proof enough. This government’s policy is to go for the cheapest. The environment doesn’t figure in the equation. Those hoping for a change brought about by Labour shouldn’t hold their breath. Labour’s record in this field is far from rosy. It’s vagueness on issues such as spring hunting, urban sprawl and party activities in a notorious land speculator and contractor’s premises speak volumes of the one-party movement’s commitment to ecological politics.

Back to the Deimara saga, a worrying fact is that according to Enemalta’s 2006 – 2015 Generation report, diesel engines are considered to be unreliable and they require frequent maintenance. This has an effect on the emissions from the plant due to the frequency of startups and shut downs. During these periods a higher amount of pollutants is emitted than during normal operations. Compounding the problem we have Austin Gatt’s choice for the dirtiest fuel available. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment, the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by this plant is expected to increase considerably the ambient levels of certain heavy metals, with their
associated health implications, and of a mutagenic and highly carcinogenic chemical called benzo(a)pyrene. This chemical is similar to the cancer causing substances found in tobacco tar. It also means that a considerable investment is required for air pollution control, coupled with greater maintenance costs.

Instead of tackling the issues the parliamentary debate on Delimara ended up in a shouting match and MP’s talking at each other, instead of to each other. The targeting of the Auditor is not a new strategy. Shooting the messenger is a common strategy in the blue tribe-red tribe theatre we happen to call Malta.

This government’s careless attitude is astounding. It emerges that the
diesel engine – flue gas cleaning combination supplied by BWSC, on the recommendation of World Bank blacklisted Lehmeyer, is a prototype. What’s more, BWSC is not guaranteeing the achievement of air quality limit values. The government has chosen to use the residents of Zejtun, Birzebbuga, Marsaxlokk as “laboratory rats” and BWSC gets paid to conduct an experiment for free in Delimara. The so-called parliamentary debate did not lead us anywhere – on the contrary we had Nationalist MPs bragging that they are four square behind the Prime Minister. They are bragging that part of Malta’s population will be laboratory rats for BWSCs open-air experiment. This is to be expected in a sterile two-party institution where MPs are just part-time voting machines. People need answers and solutions.

One solution in the circumstances is that put forward by environmental
NGOs a few weeks ago. The government should instruct Enemalta to at least use a cleaner fuel, that is, diesel instead of HFO. It is a policy decision that the Prime minister can and should take. The benefits are clear. No 30 tonnes of hazardous waste each and every week; doing away with costs of maintaining de-dusting equipment and doing away with other end-of-pipe flue cleaning equipment. We are discussing this issue today because of 20 years of inertia and the government’s lack of policies for the energy sector. For all the ‘vision 2015’ the Prime Minister claims to have, this case, at least, it is a textbook example of lack of vision and of tribal-politics as usual.

Ralph Cassar
Secretary General,
Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party

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