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Government rejects calls to extend consultation deadline

Belco has been working to address plumes of smoke from its new North Power Station on St John’s Road, Pembroke which has caused soot to land on nearby properties (Photograph supplied)

The Government has refused to extend the consultation for clean air and water legislation despite pressure from local and overseas environmental organisations.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has stuck to its three-week consultation period, which concludes at the end of tomorrow.

Earth Forward Group, a US-based environmental consultancy firm, called on the Government to push the deadline for feedback back to allow for proper consideration.

The group, which said it has been working with the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition and the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, said the three-week window for public consultation was insufficient.

The Clean Air Amendment Bill aims to refine the limits of pollutants to help reduce acute and chronic risks to the public and the environment while the Water Resources Amendment Bill is intended to help the Government crack down on water polluters.

A spokesman for the DENR said: “The department reminds the public that the Clean Air and Water Resources Amendment Bill public consultations will conclude on July 10.

“Launched on June 19, the three-week consultation period provides a valuable opportunity for stakeholders to review and offer feedback on the proposed environmental policies.”

The spokesman said there had been ample review time and the three-week consultation period ensured stakeholders had sufficient time to thoroughly examine the proposed policies and provide thoughtful feedback.

“This duration aligns with best practices for public consultations, ensuring ample time for review and response,” said the spokesman.

The spokesman said the DENR had made significant efforts to foster comprehensive stakeholder engagement.

“At the outset of the consultation period, the DENR reached out directly to all relevant environmental groups and provided opportunities for detailed ‘one-on-one’ discussions by the technical team about the consultation materials.”

He said there were also “continued submission opportunities”, adding: “Although the official consultation period concludes on July 10, the DENR remains committed to listening to all voices.

“Individuals and organisations can continue to submit their feedback directly via e-mail at pollutioncontrol@gov.bm. This ensures that valuable insights can be shared beyond the formal consultation timeline.

“The DENR extends its gratitude to all who have provided their feedback and reaffirms its dedication to an open and transparent consultation process.

“We encourage all stakeholders to use the remaining time to share their valuable insights and feedback. Your input is essential in shaping effective and sustainable environmental policies.”

Submissions can be made at www.forum.gov.bm

The EFG noted last week that the European Union’s Better Regulation agenda allows up to 28 weeks of consultation for legislation, while Britain recommends a minimum of 12 weeks.

It said: “If the Government of Bermuda truly values their public’s response, they would align Bermuda’s legislative process more closely with international standards of transparency and engagement, demonstrating a genuine commitment to soliciting and incorporating public feedback.”

It also noted that the consultation was launched during the summer holidays when many families will be off the island and less able to participate.

In recent years, Belco has exceeded annual emissions limits set in Britain and the EU, not least since the commissioning of the North Power Station.

In November 2022, Geoff Smith, an environmental engineer at DENR, said the clean-air Bill would make target levels into limit values under the Clean Air Regulations once the drafting and consultation process was completed.

There have also been ongoing soot fallouts from the station that make their way on to property and into drinking water tanks, as well as strong odours of fuel from fuel-handling facilities near St John’s Road.

Meanwhile, vehicular traffic was found to be a significant source of emissions, with air monitoring taking place at East Broadway.

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Published July 09, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated July 09, 2024 at 5:20 pm)

Government rejects calls to extend consultation deadline

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