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Dunkley on Belco: ‘unacceptable that people are living in an unhealthy environment’

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Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister of National Security, Health and Seniors, said the Government should step in and reduce fuel costs (File photograph)

The Government should step in and reduce Belco fuel costs for customers, the Opposition has suggested.

Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister of National Security, Health and Seniors, said that given the impact that pollution from the energy plant has been having on residents, the Government should step in and act.

As an example, he highlighted how fuel prices at the gas pump were recently frozen through Customs duty cuts.

Clearing the air

Mr Dunkley said in the House of Assembly during the budget debate on Friday: “Allowing the savings on fuel – that was a positive move. Where are we with the big fuel savings such as Belco?”

A Royal Gazetteinvestigation revealed that leading UK consultancy firm Ricardo Energy & Environment said in 2021 that burning a lower polluting fuel was likely “the most effective way” to mitigate the problem of soot fallout.

The move has also been identified as a means to reduce other problem emissions from the plant including sulphur dioxide, of which high levels have been detected in the vicinity of the plant.

However, a lower polluting fuel than Belco’s primary fuel – the highly toxic heavy fuel oil – is expected to come at a higher cost.

Both Belco and the Regulatory Authority, which regulates the energy sector and sets retail tariffs, said that fuel costs are passed down to the customer under the Electricity Act 2016.

Given Belco has attributed excessive pollution to its decision to optimise the North Power Station to run on an unapproved fuel then running it on alternative fuel, The Royal Gazette questioned whether resulting mitigation costs including a switch to cleaner fuel should be shouldered by the customer.

Speaking at a One Bermuda Alliance Budget press conference yesterday, Mr Dunkley added: “The Premier has said that they have avoided any increases on fuel at the pumps, but nothing has been done about Belco.

“The challenges that the residents are having in that area, it’s concerning. It’s comical now, because there has been so much coverage by members of the media about it and now people realise just how bad it is, all of a sudden Government members, Cabinet members, are jumping up and down saying how awful it is and we need to do something about it.

“But, they are the Government, they can do something about it, so, talk is cheap. That’s just trying to appease people because they don’t want to make the tough decisions.

“It is unacceptable that those people are living in an unhealthy environment.

“I know Belco is critical to our society, but, if you allow people to seem to get away with stuff without holding their feet to the fire you are not going to get improvement, and that is what this Government has done.”

It was also revealed that in 2021 the RA rejected a proposed amendment to the Clean Air Regulations to ban the use of fuels with a sulphur content of 2 per cent or more, based on a cost analysis.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, described Belco’s pollution as an “abomination” (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Royal Gazette has asked David Burt, the Premier, and Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs who recently described the pollution as “an abomination”, whether the Government is considering reducing fuel costs or considering other measures to ensure that the cost of a cleaner fuel would not fall to the consumer.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance said: "Any application for relief made by a fuel supplier or importer for a more environmentally friendly product would be considered by the Ministry of Finance"

• This story has been updated to include a quote from the Ministry of Finance which was sent last night.

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Published March 03, 2023 at 8:04 am (Updated March 07, 2023 at 8:02 am)

Dunkley on Belco: ‘unacceptable that people are living in an unhealthy environment’

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