Re­quest for dead­line ex­ten­sion per­fectly war­ranted

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The long-awaited pub­li­ca­tion of the risk as­sess­ments as­so­ci­ated with the con­tro­ver­sial LNG tanker that will feed the new De­li­mara power sta­tion were, at long last, pub­lished yes­ter­day.

From the out­set, this news­pa­per wel­comes the fact that they have been pub­lished. Nor can we crit­i­cise the fact that the doc­u­men­ta­tion made pub­lic con­sists of dozens of re­ports re­plete with sev­eral thou­sands of pages of minute de­tail.

These are ex­tremely pos­i­tive facts that lead one to be­lieve that lit­er­ally no stone has been left un­turned in an ef­fort to at­tain full safety and full dis­clo­sure.

Although the more cyn­i­cal mem­bers of the pub­lic out there will ques­tion the sheer enor­mity of the data re­leased, and ar­gue that yes­ter­day’s re­lease was as vo­lu­mi­nous as it was be­cause the aim is to ob­fus­cate and real prob­lems that lie within; the sim­ple fact of the mat­ter is that what was pub­lished yes­ter­day was pub­lished as part of a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise.

An­other sim­ple fact is that no com­mon mem­ber of the pub­lic could pos­si­bly be ex­pected to read, di­gest, in­ter­pret and an­a­lyse those thou­sands of pages within the al­lot­ted 30day time­frame – pos­si­bly not even with the help of a team of en­gi­neers or risk as­sess­ment spe­cial­ists.

Edi­tor’s pick

Not even the Op­po­si­tion, which has such a stake in its op­po­si­tion to the project and which has the re­sources that it does at its dis­posal, would be able to do that - let alone the av­er­age cit­i­zen burn­ing the mid­night oil in their dens, stud­ies, kitchen ta­bles or liv­ing rooms.

The Op­po­si­tion Leader yes­ter­day wrote to the En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Author­ity to re­quest an ex­ten­sion to the 30-day pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod and he was quite right to have done so.

It is, af­ter all, not only the Op­po­si­tion that needs more time to go through those doc­u­ments with the fine tooth comb that they de­serve, but so do the res­i­dents of the lo­cal­i­ties that will host the LNG tanker, namely the res­i­dents of Marsaxlokk and Birzeb­buga.

Af­ter all, this is no reg­u­lar pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise. It is an ex­er­cise aimed at de­ter­min­ing the safety of what is the most po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous in­dus­trial fa­cil­ity in the coun­try.

Some of the re­ports go into fi­nite de­tail on the haz­ards that could af­fect the power plant – such as light­ing strikes, earth­quakes, soil sub­si­dence, port op­er­a­tions, air­craft crashes and ter­ror­ism.

Other re­ports pub­lished yes­ter­day in­clude a wave pen­e­tra­tion study, a study on the ma­noeu­vres ex­pected by the LNG car­rier in Marsaxlokk and a re­port on the FSU’s storm moor­ing sys­tem and how it re­acts un­der dif­fer­ent wave pat­terns, amongst sev­eral oth­ers.

Still more re­ports map out sev­eral hun­dred ac­ci­dent sce­nar­ios, such as small and large gas leaks on board the FSU or at the re­gasi­fi­ca­tion unit and their pos­si­ble con­se­quences, which in­clude flash fires, vapour cloud ex­plo­sions and jet fires.

The dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios are clas­si­fied ac­cord­ing to their like­li­hood of oc­cur­ring but the data is very com­plex and dif­fi­cult to read with­out pro­fes­sional guid­ance and a sub­stan­tial amount of time.

Again, while we can­not fault the op­er­a­tors for pub­lish­ing the full gamut of the stud­ies, more time is needed if peo­ple, or even po­lit­i­cal par­ties and me­dia houses, are to make de­cent sense of those 15,000 pages.

Af­ter all, once the new power sta­tion project has al­ready been de­layed so long for rea­sons best known to the gov­ern­ment and the op­er­a­tors, a fur­ther and com­par­a­tively slight de­lay for the pub­lic to be able to go through the vol­umes of doc­u­men­ta­tion is a drop in the ocean.

If the re­quest is de­nied, it will sim­ply make peo­ple more scep­ti­cal of the project it­self. And that is some­thing the gov­ern­ment cer­tainly does not need at this del­i­cate junc­ture.

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