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OBA says minister’s House speech on Belco ‘is laughable’

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Jason Hayward, Progressive Labour Party MP for Pembroke Central (File photograph)

The Opposition has accused Progressive Labour Party MP Jason Hayward of doing little for his constituents affected by emissions from Belco.

The One Bermuda Alliance was speaking in response to a suggestion by Mr Hayward, MP for Pembroke Central, in the House of Assembly on Friday that those affected by pollution from the plant should received free electricity.

The OBA also revealed that “concerned politicians” Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Home Affairs, and Susan Jackson, the Shadow Minister of Transport, recently met with officials from Belco to discuss the ongoing problems with emissions.

Yesterday an OBA spokeswoman said: “The record shows that minister Hayward has done little to help those impacted by the pollution and while calling for free electricity is a good soundbite, what needs to happen is for the PLP Government and the Regulatory Authority to hold Belco accountable.

“Minister Hayward’s speech is laughable.”

The Royal Gazette has approached the Regulatory Authority, which approves and sets tariffs, and Belco for comment on the feasibility of implementing such a move.

During his speech, Mr Hayward said the situation being forced on his constituents was “wholly unacceptable”.

In recent years, residents living close to Belco’s Pembroke plant have suffered fallouts of soot on their roofs and properties, and have also endured stack emissions including sulphur dioxide and fuel odours from tanks on St John’s Road.

While many of the problems began at the commissioning of the North Power Station in April 2020, emissions were affecting residents before then.

Mr Pearman and Ms Jackson, who met with members of Belco’s senior management in August and again on February 1, said that there was a need for a “clear, consistent and comprehensive remediation programme”.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Home Affairs (File photograph)

The OBA spokeswoman added: “The OBA suggested reinstating independent air quality monitors, especially in areas most directly affected by the smokestack emissions. However, the Government must amend clean air legislation to reflect more environmentally sensitive thresholds.”

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, has said the Clean Air Act 1991 and Bermuda Clean Air Regulations 1993 are due to be updated this year bringing our laws in line with more stringent UK air quality standards.

Despite this, funding for the government-assisted air quality monitoring programme was cut by the ministry last April in order to save $230,000.

The spokeswoman added: “Area residents and the broader community must trust Government's commitment to environmental sustainability as potential pollution generating smoke stacks are commissioned near residential areas.

“No one in Bermuda should have to live their daily lives consuming potentially hazardous particles, fear of life-threatening illnesses nor depreciation of property values.

“Bermuda prides itself on our clean and environmentally superior sea, land and air quality. It would be devastating to have industrial smokestacks threatening the quality of our pristine natural resources.”

Susan Jackson ,the One Bermuda Alliance Shadow Minister for Transport (Photograph supplied)

The spokeswoman said the Government and the RA, the electricity sector regulator, have been slow to address environmental concerns, adding: “Bermuda has the expertise available to them to better regulate the quality of our natural environment.”

The OBA also took aim at the Government for not doing more given its “connections’, highlighting that Belco president Wayne Caines is a senior member of Parliament and Mr Hayward is a Cabinet minister.

The spokeswoman added: “Yet, with these connections, the PLP is unable to help those who suffer greatly every day by the pollution of the new engine.

“There can only be two reasons why this continues to happen – the PLP is unable to make decisions to end the pollution or they are unwilling to step on each others’ toes as party loyalty always comes first. It's your call PLP. Please tell Bermuda which one is correct?

“Can you imagine if the OBA was the government and an OBA MP represented that constituency? The PLP would be creating all sorts of havoc.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “We do sympathise with the continued problems that the residents within that area of Pembroke face regularly with the unacceptable discharges from the North Power Station.

“Certainly, we are working with the Environmental Authority and Department of Environment and Natural Resources to devise possible strategies to mitigate this issue.

“We wish to remind the public that we are working on amendments to the Clean Air legislation that will properly address these matters. An update on the Clean Air legislation will be provided in due course.”

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Published February 07, 2023 at 9:54 am (Updated February 07, 2023 at 9:54 am)

OBA says minister’s House speech on Belco ‘is laughable’

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