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Public consultation launched for new environmental rules

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Belco (File photograph)

The Government has asked for the public to provide feedback on proposed environmental regulations before they are sent to the House of Assembly.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said at a press conference that amendments to the Water Resources Amendment Bill and the Clean Air Amendment Bill have been put out to public consultation this week.

Mr Roban said: “Over the next three weeks the Government invites the public to comment on these proposed legislative changes.

“Additionally, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will also be holding individual consultation meetings with stakeholders and anyone who is interested to get feedback on this legislation.

“Following that consultation period, we will consider the feedback and amend the bills accordingly before bringing the legislation to Cabinet for consideration so it can be tabled in the House this year. Our goal is next month, July 2024.”

Mr Roban said the changes to the Clean Air Amendment Bill were intended to enshrine stricter emissions controls to prevent air pollution and “nuisance odour”.

The legislation would refine pollutant levels to reduce risks to people and the environment to make them more stringent than UK standards and be more enforceable.

The minister said the new regulations would not come into effect for at least six months after the rules are approved to grant organisations time to prepare for the new standards.

“They will have to get abreast and make changes to abide by those standards, so we expect them to have to make some adjustments,” Mr Roban said.

“We will be reaching out to them, so they will have an idea of what they have to do, but there will be a six-month period for them to transition because we know there will have to be some investment by some of them to abide by these standards.”

While he said that Belco would be required to meet the new standards when they are introduced, different measures would be required to address complaints of fallen soot from the plant.

“Standards of their licensing will still go up because it’s not just soot that is discharged or omitted from Belco,” Mr Roban said.

“There are others and, as you well know, there are monitoring stations around the immediate area and throughout the island which monitor emissions from controlled plants.

“As part of their licence they have to report to the Government and there is also independent monitoring as well. That won’t change. If anything, it will increase and the standards will increase.”

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, announces that amendments to the Water Resources Amendment Bill and the Clean Air Amendment Bill have been put out to public consultation (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Mr Roban said measuring the “periodic soot fallout events” had proven challenging, but data was still being collected and discussions would be had with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to determine how to address the issue.

The Water Resources Amendment Bill, meanwhile, is intended to help authorities identify habitual polluters who discharge sewage in protected waters.

New regulations will be based on existing clean-up guidelines would be applied to any polluter and make it an offence to not report a “pollution event”, allow for pollution stop orders and mandate the need for abatement and remediation to polluted ground and groundwater.

“This will significantly enhance the Government’s ability to protect the environment,” he said.

“Additionally, Government will provide best practice guidance online based on international processes from developed jurisdictions to inform the public on how to reduce the risk of pollution spills.”

Mr Roban said the amendments had been published online at forum.gov.bm, with members of the public invited to provide their feedback over the next three weeks.

“The Government's commitment to protecting Bermuda’s air and water quality is unwavering,” Mr Roban added.

“These proposed amendments and new regulations are vital steps towards a cleaner, healthier environment for all. We look forward to your participation and valuable feedback during the consultation process.”

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Published June 19, 2024 at 12:41 pm (Updated June 19, 2024 at 2:37 pm)

Public consultation launched for new environmental rules

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