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No intention to close Marsa power plant for now –­ Tonio Fenech

The government will not be shutting down the Marsa power station completely before 2013 despite three of the four plants there having surpassed the 20,000 operational hours allowed by the EU.

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech yesterday said the derogation Malta had obtained from the EU could not be extended but the government was making its case with the European Commission that Enemalta had taken measures to reduce emissions.

However, the Labour Party yesterday insisted it did not trust Enemalta’s efforts to reduce emissions.

The Marsa power station will be completely shut down in 2013 when the interconnector cable links Malta to the European energy grid.

Mr Fenech said half the Marsa plant will be shut down in mid-2012 when the extension to the Delimara power station is expected to be ready.

In the meantime, he said Enemalta had taken a number of measures to reduce emissions although he admitted that some were still above the allowed limits.

In a strong reaction to the news that the Marsa power station had exceeded its time limit, the Labour Party said it could not trust Enemalta on its claim that it would implement more abatement measures since the planning authority had already deemed the abatement measures currently in force as “insufficient”.

Addressing a press conference outside the Marsa plant Environment spokesman Leo Brincat, who was accompanied by Labour MPs Evarist Bartolo and Joe Mizzi, produced a confidential memo sent on June 6 by the planning authority’s chief executive Ian Stafrace to officers at Hexagon House, Malta Environment and Planning Authority chairman Austin Walker and Environment Protection director Petra Bianchi on the authority’s actions regarding foul smells in Marsa.

One of the issues Dr Stafrace raised in the memo was the Marsa power station, which included a tank farm where certain abatement measures had to be taken to reduce foul smells according to the environment permit issued in 2010.

Dr Stafrace said: “On review of this permit, Mepa has deemed such abatement as being insufficient and is requesting Enemalta to install further abatement measures.”

On the basis of this, Mr Brincat added, Enemalta could not be trusted when it said it would increase abatement measures to mitigate the fact that three of its plants had surpassed the 20,000 hours limit.

The spokesman said Malta had an energy crisis with an environmental and financial cost, which the public would have to shoulder.

Mr Brincat said that in the absence of a national energy plan the Delimara power station extension was delayed because of government’s lack of planning and mismanagement over the years.

In a statement issued on Thursday Enemalta blamed the PL’s “protests and objections” during the tendering and planning process for the delay in the controversial Delimara power station extension. The charge was repeated yesterday by Mr Fenech.

But in a pointed reaction, Mr Bartolo, who had raised the controversy over the contract awarded to Danish company BWSC, said Enemalta “had the cheek” to blame Labour for the delay.

“First of all it is unacceptable that a public corporation like Enemalta blames the PL for the delays in the commissioning of the Delimara power station extension and secondly despite Labour’s objections work on the extension was never held back or stopped,” Mr Bartolo said.

The Delimara extension process started in February 2005, he added, and it took the government 33 months to change the law that regulated emissions in such a way that would eventually allow BWSC to participate in the tendering process with diesel engines running on heavy fuel oil.

During this time frame, Mr Bartolo said, the government had also changed its policy to have the extension operating on heavy fuel oil instead of gas.

He quoted from a confidential Enemalta dossier that was drawn up in March 2008 in which then chief executive David Spiteri Gingell had admitted that the extension was already late.

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