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Emissions control order against Belco in motion

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Ministry of Home Affairs has confirmed an emission control order will be imposed to abate pollution from Belco.

Emission control orders can result in fines against the utility of up to $50,000 per day for noncompliance.

On June 21, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources informed Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, that Belco breached the Clean Air Act 1991.

The utility and its regulator the Regulatory Authority were informed on Friday there was a breach of the Act and, therefore, a condition in its operating licence that speaks to Belco’s obligation to not cause a statutory nuisance.

Asked for clarity, a spokesman for the ministry said: “The information you seek is available in Section 12 of the Clean Air Act”.

This part of the Act refers to emission control orders.

A subsection says: “If it appears to an inspector that a term or condition of an operating licence has been or is about to be contravened, being a term or condition imposing a restriction on the emission of an air contaminant, the inspector may serve an emission control order on the person owning or operating the controlled plant concerned.”

Mr Roban has instructed the Regulatory Authority to “commence appropriate actions”.

The RA said yesterday that it was still reviewing the minister’s directions and would provide an update on the matter as soon as it is able to.

Belco said on Monday that it was unaware of being noncompliant, was seeking clarification and would provide assurances of the steps it was taking in relation to its plant emissions.

However, a spokesman said yesterday that the firm would not be making any further public comment on the matter.

Emission control orders seek to abate air contaminants that are, or are or is likely to be, injurious to life or health, or to be detrimental to property.

The Royal Gazette reported last month that according to what were then newly released minutes of the Environmental Authority dated April 25, the order, which was at that time under consideration by the DENR, related only to “damage to property”.

Belco on emissions progress

Wayne Caines, Belco president, said: “As Bermuda’s sole provider of electricity, we at Belco take our responsibility to the community seriously – not only in terms of providing safe, reliable power, but also to take every measure possible to minimise the impacts of our operations on our environment and community.

“Since issues were identified with the North Power Station in 2020, our team has taken a systematic approach to rectifying the problem including installing shims and piston crowns on all four engines.

“A new engine operating protocol has also been implemented which relates to engine start-up procedures and governor setting changes. This reduces the amount of fuel injected during start-up which will result in the reduction of soot build-up in the exhaust over time. In the coming months a dryer skid will be installed which will remove moisture from the combustion process and further reduce soot fallout from the NPS exhaust stack.

“Belco has also adjusted operational procedures whereby light fuel oil is used when starting an NPS engine and returning it to service. This has resulted in a reduction in particulate matter during start-up and a reduction in impacts experienced by area residents.

“Belco continually monitors our impact on the environment through ambient air quality measuring sites in Pembroke which provides data to ensure Belco operations are operating within the Bermuda standards.

“Should our neighbours experience any impacts, we encourage them to notify us as soon as possible by filling out the form available on our website or e-mailing ohse@belco.bm.

“I want to thank our neighbours and the community for their patience while we work to continually improve our operations and reduce our impacts on our neighbours and the community.”

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Published July 05, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated July 05, 2023 at 7:33 am)

Emissions control order against Belco in motion

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