A meeting by MEPA to consider a permit for the new gas-fired power station and a floating gas storage facility in Marsaxlokk Bay is currently underway. The outcome of this meeting is sure to be in favour of the issuing of this permit, with the public’s concerns being completely disregarded and dismissed as frivolous. The harsh reality is that this permit will be granted with key environmental and health and safety assessments not being fulfilled. Why is there the need for such a rushed decision?
The following title is from the Times of Malta article relating to the meeting that is currently in progress. It is very evident that the article itself gives away the clear way in which Malta’s main planning authority operates:
Mepa meeting on power station enters sixth hour – PM says work to proceed if permit issued, despite possible appeals; Full maritime impact assessment study, final risk assessment, still to be completed
Isn’t there a massive paradox here? How can ANY legitimate planning and environment authority issue any permits without necessary studies being carried out? What is more important in the case of a floating gas storage in a bay used for commercial fishing than a study to mitigate the impacts of said storage on the surrounding area?
Mr David Galea, an Enemalta representative, insisted that despite the lack of necessary studies the project was hastily required since the nation’s main energy company was in urgent need of reform to avoid serious economic and social consequences. In his own words: “Enemalta requires immediate surgery and we do not have luxury to postpone decisions.”
In other words, “F*** any possible environmental impact that this new project may have, we need to finish it ASAP otherwise the Maltese nation will end up financially and socially crippled – or so I have been instructed to make the people believe”.
The Maltese economy is not as distressed as it is being portrayed. While no one can debate the high prices of energy tariffs in Malta and their effects on a household’s income, the living situation faced by most Maltese people is not as bad as it is in many other European countries. Having lived in the UK, and paid exorbitant energy tariffs (which I calculated to be 290% higher than they are in Malta), I can safely say that people there feel the actual brunt of high-priced tariffs. This can be exemplified by the “Eat or Heat” awareness campaign, which shows the realities faced by poor families that turn off their heating during winter to spend the money on food instead.
The situation is even more exasperated by the Maltese Prime Minister’s comments at how he will want to proceed with the permit even if appeals are filed. Despite this being (apparently) within legal limits, it evokes a sense of irresponsibility and nonchalance. If we cannot rely on the pertinent authorities and the government to ensure that the necessary studies are effectively carried out, the public is justified in feeling uneasy.
The 2015 gas-fired power station has quickly evolved into a project that exceeds the rational limits of planning and environmental and public safety, being fuelled by a false sense of immediate demand and underlying political commitments.
This project will be rushed to completion, with the hope that all goes well and no accidents happen – such a reassuring way for the residents of Marsaxlokk to live out their lives!