NEPA still in dark on Nain plant

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Christo­pher Serju Gleaner Writer christo­pher.serju@glean­erjm.com

THE NA­TIONAL En­vi­ron­ment and Plan­ning Agency (NEPA) has not been in­volved in any dis­cus­sions on the use of coal as a po­ten­tial power source at the old Al­part bauxite fa­cil­ity in Nain, St El­iz­a­beth, when­ever Ji­uquan Iron and Steel gets its op­er­a­tions go­ing.

The Ja­maica En­vi­ron­ment Trust had voiced strong ob­jec­tion to the pro­posed con­struc­tion of a 1,000megawatt, coal-fired power plant, cit­ing the threat to health and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“I am mak­ing sure that NEPA and ev­ery­body get all the in­for­ma­tion and do all the re­search that the judge­ment call is a sen­si­ble one, be­cause the en­vi­ron­ment is very im­por­tant to me equally, and we’ll have to work around that,” Min­is­ter of Trans­port and Min­ing Mike Henry told The Gleaner re­cently.

How­ever, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of NEPA, Peter Knight, has since con­firmed that the reg­u­la­tory agency is yet to re­ceive an ap­pli­ca­tion on the mat­ter and em­pha­sised that its rep­re­sen­ta­tive who went to China with the Ja­maica del­e­ga­tion in July did so solely in the ca­pac­ity of an ob­server.

“[We] did not go to give any ad­vice, did not go to par­tic­i­pate in any­thing. [We] only went as an

ob­server to look at what peo­ple were talk­ing about as a (coal) plant,” Knight said.

Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and En­ergy Min­is­ter An­drew Wheat­ley had said dur­ing the press con­fer­ence in July that Govern­ment was await­ing an of­fi­cial report from NEPA, in or­der to in­form its de­ci­sion on the mat­ter. This is not so, ac­cord­ing to Knight.

“We ea­gerly await di­a­logue with the in­vestors when they are di­rected to us. I would sus­pect that if we are go­ing to pro­ceed with the in­ten­tion of do­ing a de­vel­op­ment, that the in­vestors would have di­a­logue with NEPA. We would take them through the pro­cesses. We would design the terms of ref­er­ence with a group of ex­perts that we have iden­ti­fied and then we would take it from there,” Knight dis­closed.

The NEPA head fur­ther ex­plained: “We don’t com­ment on mat­ters that are not be­fore us, but there is a tried and proven method that we have that is a very in­volved method called do­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment, which may in­clude nat­u­ral re­sources eval­u­a­tion, which may in­clude cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis, which may in­clude so­cial im­pact as­sess­ment sur­veys, and so on and so forth.

“And which also would al­low the gen­eral pub­lic ac­cess to, and par­tic­i­pa­tion in, the process, through the pub­lic meet­ings and the com­ments that they make. All of those things would go into any con­sid­er­a­tion and de­ci­sion on this mat­ter.”

FILE

NEPA head Peter Knight.

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