A se­cret plan for De­li­mara

The Seveso Di­rec­tive of the Euro­pean Union is a le­gal in­stru­ment orig­i­nally en­acted in 1982. Sub­se­quently amended, the present ver­sion was en­acted in 2012 and is re­ferred to as the ‘Seveso III Di­rec­tive’.

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

An ar­chi­tect and civil engi­neer, the au­thor is Deputy Chair­man of Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta. ca­co­par­do­carm@gmail.com, http://carmel­ca­co­pardo.word­press.com

Its full name is ‘Di­rec­tive 2012/18/EU of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Coun­cil of 4 July 2012 on the con­trol of ma­jor-ac­ci­dent haz­ards in­volv­ing dan­ger­ous sub­stances, amend­ing and sub­se­quently re­peal­ing Coun­cil Di­rec­tive 96/82/EC’. It has also been trans­posed into Mal­tese leg­is­la­tion through the Con­trol of Ma­jor Ac­ci­dent Haz­ard Reg­u­la­tions 2015.

As the tech­ni­cal name im­plies, the Seveso III Di­rec­tive seeks to reg­u­late sites which have the po­ten­tial for ma­jor in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents. It seeks to achieve its aim pri­mar­ily through preven­tion but also by plan­ning to min­imise the im­pact of ac­ci­dents that may oc­cur on such sites.

The Di­rec­tive was orig­i­nally en­acted as a re­sult of the in­dus­trial ac­ci­dent in the Ital­ian town of Seveso in 1976, when toxic fumes emit­ted from a chem­i­cal plant con­tam­i­nated the sur­round­ing res­i­den­tial area. It aims to im­prove the safety of such sites, both the safety of the em­ploy­ees work­ing in such sites and the safety of res­i­dents, and the com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ties, in the area.

One such site is the De­li­mara power sta­tion. This site has to fol­low the rules set out in the Seveso III Di­rec­tive and in the Mal­tese reg­u­la­tions which trans­pose it into Mal­tese law.

Through these reg­u­la­tions, the Civil Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment is re­spon­si­ble for pre­par­ing emer­gency plans to be ap­plied in the event of an ac­ci­dent. There has to be an in­ter­nal plan, one that ap­plies to the in­dus­trial plant it­self, and an ex­ter­nal plan, that ap­plies be­yond the bound­aries of the plant.

The in­ter­nal emer­gency plan is drawn up in con­junc­tion with the man­age­ment of the plant and dis­cussed with the staff. Mem­bers of staff are un­doubt­edly trained not just in the cor­rect run­ning of the plant but also with re­gard to the pro­to­col they should fol­low if there is an ac­ci­dent.

The ex­ter­nal emer­gency plan con­cerns res­i­dents and busi­ness in the vicin­ity of the in­dus­trial plant. The Seveso III Di­rec­tive re­quires that such a plan be sub­ject to pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion. In fact, Reg­u­la­tion 10(5) of the Con­trol of Ma­jor Haz­ard Reg­u­la­tions 2015 states: “The Civil Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment shall en­sure that the pub­lic con­cerned is given early op­por­tu­nity to give its opin­ion on ex­ter­nal emer­gency plans when they are be­ing es­tab­lished or sub­stan­tially mod­i­fied.”

To­day is, in fact, the clos­ing day for a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise or­gan­ised by the En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Author­ity in re­spect of the De­li­mara Power Sta­tion. Among the doc­u­ments which the Author­ity pub­lished for con­sul­ta­tion one finds a re­port en­ti­tled Ex­ter­nal Emer­gency Plan pre­pared by the Civil Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment. How­ever, the re­port made avail­able is only part of the full re­port as the most im­por­tant part – the part on op­er­a­tional is­sues – is miss­ing. The avail­able par­tial­re­port makes in­ter­est­ing read­ing, but we are in­formed that the cen­sored part has been re­moved as its avail­abil­ity would be “a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity”.

Those run­ning the De­part­ment of Civil Pro­tec­tion are maybe not aware that they have the duty to in­form and that in this day and age they have no author­ity to act as a ‘big brother’. The pub­lic has the right to be in­formed and this right is the pre­req­ui­site for its ac­tive in­volve­ment in the for­mu­la­tion and even­tual ap­proval of the ex­ter­nal emer­gency plan.

In a demo­cratic so­ci­ety the right of the pub­lic to be in­formed is a ba­sic el­e­ment of good gov­er­nance. By opt­ing for se­crecy, the De­part­ment of Civil Pro­tec­tion has cho­sen to take a com­pletely dif­fer­ent path – one that ig­nores the cit­i­zen and his right to par­tic­i­pate in mean­ing­ful ac­tions and de­ci­sions.

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