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Pressure group says three-week consultation is ‘insufficient’

Draft amendments to air pollution legislation would introduce more stringent emission standards for controlled plants, including Belco (File photograph)

A pressure group said yesterday that the three-week consultation period for public feedback on the Government's draft amendments to clean-air and water-pollution laws was insufficient.

The Bermuda Clean Air Coalition called for an extension of the feedback window to allow the group and other stakeholders time to provide an informed response to the complex legislation.

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

He added that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would host individual meetings with stakeholders and anyone who was interested in providing input.

Draft amendments to air pollution legislation were designed to introduce more stringent emission standards for controlled plants, including Belco.

The Clean Air Amendment Bill, put online last week for public consultation, is intended to refine the limit values of pollutants to help reduce acute and chronic risks to the public and the environment.

The BCAC issued a statement to The Royal Gazette that said: “BCAC called for updated legislation and have been waiting on it for years.

“We first learnt about it from the media. No one has contacted us.

“We have two weeks to read and understand them and put it to our members, gather feedback, go to industry experts, go to emissions experts, medical experts, gather independent regulatory and legal advice and produce an opinion in two weeks.

“On the one hand, it’s good to see the legislation is coming but look how many pages the legislation is. We have to to be able to understand it.”

The coalition added: "We are saying ‘yes, we appreciate public consultation, but we need time to analyse and provide opinion and feedback’.

“We are calling for six weeks to a couple of months at the least. It’s also the summer holidays and people are away.”

Residents were encouraged to visit the Government’s Bermuda Citizens Forum website, where public consultations were open for both pieces of legislation, and to scroll down to the “read more” sections, where documents were available for download.

The clean-air legislation would also expand the list of controlled chemicals to include many refrigerant gases introduced under the 1987 Montreal Protocol intended to address global warming.

A summary explained that replacement gases were found to have a high global warming potential and were also being phased out.

The amendments would require licensees of controlled plants to develop and submit an air quality action plan, which would need to be reviewed and approved by the minister, when legislated limits were exceeded.

“The AQAP will include a schedule of actions and goals to ensure the emissions from the controlled plant improve and meet the regulations going forward,” the summary said.

“Public consultations will also be required as part of the AQAP process.”

The Clean Air Amendment Bill would introduce odour legislation intended to address nuisance smells produced by plants.

“Trained assessors would be used to dilute odorous air with odour-free air to the point where it is not detected and the dilution-to-threshold limit-value would determine whether the odour was considered a nuisance or not,” the summary explained.

The amendments would also introduce the concept of “best available technologies” to the Clean Air Act, along with definitions of approved air containment measure methodologies based on US Environmental Protection Agency standards.

The changes would modify the definition of spray painting facilities, which are listed as controlled plants under the legislation, to include open-air spray painting and inflatable spray paint booths.

The consultation documents noted that the DENR received complaints about such operations in residential areas.

The public consultation period is scheduled to conclude on July 9, with residents able to provide feedback online through forum.gov.bm.

Mr Roban said last week 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.

The regulations would not come into effect for six months after they are approved to give organisations with controlled plants time to adjust to the new standards.

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.

If passed, this means that such exceedences by the plant under the new legislation would no longer be permitted under Bermuda law.

There have also been numerous soot fallouts from Belco’s North Power Station 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.

The Government was approached yesterday for comment.

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Published June 24, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 24, 2024 at 7:06 pm)

Pressure group says three-week consultation is ‘insufficient’

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