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Hayward says Belco neighbours should get free electricity

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A senior Pembroke residents have called for action over pollution from Belco’s North Power Plant. (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Belco should write off the bills of neighbours of Belco who have been affected by emissions, a senior Cabinet Minister said.

Jason Hayward, who holds the economy and labour portfolio and is MP for Pembroke Central which sits on three sides of the Belco power station, said the situation being forced on his constituents from Belco emissions was “wholly unacceptable”.

Mr Hayward said he had approached Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, the Regulatory Authority and Wayne Caines, his fellow PLP MP and Belco’s president.

In unusual scenes, Mr Hayward told fellow MPs: "When you can't rely on your water to get a bath or drink because you don't know if it safe, when residents have lost loved ones from cancer and they can link it to the power plant, there needs to be a change.

"They are fed up, and I, as the area MP, am fed up. It is simply unacceptable what those individuals are experiencing.“

The minister then attacked the power company’s social media output in response to media reports.

Mr Hayward added: "And, let me say the video Belco sent out after the reports was completely tone deaf.

“You can't say you are meeting environmental standards when you can see rust running off roofs."

Mr Hayward said the residents needed to be compensated, and not just by getting their roofs washed every couple of months.

The minister said: "The residents should not be paying Belco bills while the problem lasts."

He also warned that frustrated residents were close to taking direct action over the emissions.

After leaving the parliamentary chamber, Mr Caines told The Royal Gazette: “Every Belco customer is important – the safety and the health of all Belco customers is of paramount importance to the leadership team.

“I am aware that there are concerns in our community and it is our aim to hear them and to put viable solutions in place as we have been doing.

“The minister has made his remarks and I will not comment to them directly, simply to say that it is important that we understand that the constituents, the people in that neighbourhood have raised those concerns with us.

“The Bermuda Clean Air Coalition has raised those concerns with us. They are valid. And we are looking into them, and have mechanisms in place to deal with it.”

Jason Hayward, Economy and Labour Minister (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Mr Hayward told The Royal Gazette: “I think that the problem has not been addressed and my constituents continue to call for the problem to be addressed.

“And, so, as long as the constituents are being impacted it is my responsibility as their representative to continue to bring their plight to the forefront.”

Asked if a suspension of Belco bills was likely to happen, Mr Hayward said: “I think it is something that they need to consider – how they adequately compensate these people for what is happening to their homes.”

Less than 20 minutes after Mr Caines left the parliamentary chamber, the House of Assembly session was forced to adjourn early due to an island-wide electricity blackout.

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Published February 06, 2023 at 8:08 am (Updated February 06, 2023 at 10:03 am)

Hayward says Belco neighbours should get free electricity

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