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Group calls on the Government to be an environmental role model

Time for change: the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition says that power provider Belco should move away from burning heavy fuel oil (File photograph)

An environmental pressure group has appealed to the Government to “take a progressive stance and truly be a role model in the fight against climate change”.

The Bermuda Clean Air Coalition made the call just before next month’s UN Global Climate Change conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, will represent Bermuda and the other Overseas Territories at the conference.

A spokesman for the BCAC claimed that Bermuda could “show leadership on the world stage” by moving from the use of heavy fuel oil to lighter diesel.

The group claimed that one pollution testing station near Belco’s main power plant on Serpentine Road in Pembroke had earlier this year recorded sulphur dioxide levels that exceeded UK air-quality targets.

The spokesman said: “Under specific atmospheric conditions, downdrafting appears to bring Belco fumes to ground level not only in Ocean Lane, but Rockville Lane and potentially other areas where there have been reports from residents of strong fume odours causing headaches and nausea, necessitating windows to be kept shut and children to stay indoors.

“In view of this, it is the BCAC's position that only a change in fuel type, away from highly polluting heavy fuel oil to lighter diesel, can at least partially address these problems.”

He added: “The BCAC calls on minister Roban and the Government to take a progressive stance and truly be a role model in the fight against climate change by ensuring that the island moves away from burning heavy fuel oil.”

The group admitted that the Government had taken “an important step” with legislation to bring the island’s emissions limits in line with global standards.

It also praised Belco for its use of new approaches to mitigate its impact, such as a more consistent roof painting policy, the installation of water filtration systems, and the reduction of soot fallout through adjustment of its engines.

But the spokesperson added: “The BCAC questions whether even the global standards are sufficient to prevent health impacts on Bermudians and whether there is a need to introduce stricter standards in Bermuda given the proximity of the power plant to densely populated residential zones and schools.”

The group said that consumers should not be “burdened” with additional fuel costs.

The spokesperson said: “Currently, Belco is permitted by existing regulations to transfer all of its fuel costs and any fuel taxes to the consumer.

“The BCAC calls for the Government to explore ways to achieve more equitable cost sharing – for example whereby the Government reduces its tax component – perhaps offset by the introduction of a carbon tax – and Belco absorbs some of the additional cost of a lighter fuel.”

Nadir Wade, Belco’s managing director of bulk generation, said: “We appreciate the ongoing dialogue with the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition and the community as we work to improve operations at our plant.

“As part of our efforts to achieve higher standards, we continue to assess the fuel used to power the generators in our plant.

“We are acutely aware of the rising cost of fuel and the impact higher prices will have on our customers.”

Mr Wade added: “Our goal at Belco is to become a renewable energy company and we hope to be afforded the opportunity to work with the Regulatory Authority to bring offshore wind turbines to Bermuda as outlined in the Integrated Resource Plan.

“We look forward to ongoing community outreach and engaging with stakeholders as we work towards a clean and sustainable energy future in Bermuda.”

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Published October 26, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated October 26, 2021 at 7:49 am)

Group calls on the Government to be an environmental role model

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