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Campaign group criticises ‘inadequate’ consultation

Belco Soot (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A campaign group has condemned the decision not to extend public consultation on air pollution legislation, calling the three-weed window “grossly inadequate”.

The consultation period on both the Clean Air Amendment Bill and the Water Resources Amendment Bill formally close today, despite calls for the deadline to be extended.

The Bermuda Clean Air Coalition said in a statement: “This hasty process not only undermines years of advocacy but also jeopardises the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of Bermudians.

“After years of delays and broken promises, the Ministry of Home Affairs finally released drafts of two crucial pieces of legislation, only to allow a mere 21 days for public review and provide feedback.

“This timeline is not only unreasonable but also falls far short of international best practices and the Government's own standards for other legislation.”

A spokesperson for the campaign group said that they had called for consultation and updated air pollution regulations for more than five years.

They added: “The Government's decision to rush this process during the summer holidays is a slap in the face to every Bermudian who has suffered from air pollution.”

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, announced the consultation process last month, stating that it was hoped the feedback would be used to amend the legislation so it could be tabled in the House of Assembly next month.

Earth Forward Group, a US-based environmental consultancy firm, recently 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.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources responded that there had been ample review 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.

In response, the BCAC said: “The people of Bermuda deserve a thorough public consultation process that prioritises environmental protection and public health.”

The group called on David Burt, the Premier, and Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, to intervene as the representatives of the areas most affected by emissions from Belco.

They urged the consultation period be extended until September 15, for public town hall meetings to be held, greater transparency on how feedback from “industry players like Belco” factored into the amendments and for a commitment to regular reviews and updates to the legislation.

“The health of our children and our people are at stake,” the spokesperson added.

“We will not allow years of advocacy to be undermined by a rushed and inadequate process. The people of Bermuda deserve better, and we demand better.”

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Published July 10, 2024 at 7:54 am (Updated July 10, 2024 at 7:54 am)

Campaign group criticises ‘inadequate’ consultation

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