The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has announced that it is implementing concrete measures which will control harmful emissions into the air from medium combustion plants and safeguard new species of flora and fauna to protect specific areas of the Maltese environment.
In comments given to The Malta Business Observer, a spokesperson for the Authority stated this drive was part of the entity’s remit to implement international and EU legal instruments and ensure adherence to regulation in order to provide “assurance that the environment is being safeguarded and protected”.
To this end, the ERA’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Louise Spiteri said that the new regulations will, firstly, require operators of medium combustion plants – whether new or already in existence - to obtain a permit from the entity. The permit will set the emission limit values of particular compounds passed into the atmosphere as the plant burns fuel to generate energy, to accord with current legislation.
The amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and dust generated from medium combustion plants is limited by the Laws of Malta and must be line with the requirements stipulated in SL 549.122, The Limitation of Emissions of Certain Pollutants into the air from Medium Combustion Plants Regulations, 2018.
Lophelia pertusa / Photo by LifeBahar
“The permit will set certain emission limit values for the production of NOX, SO2 and dust, which must be monitored by the operator. These vary according to whether the plant is classified as existing or new, the rated thermal input of the plant and the type of fuel used. Operators of plants will also be required to monitor carbon monoxide, to keep track of such emissions and to provide the necessary information to ERA in order to ensure compliance with the legislation,” Dr Spiteri said.
New plants will need to obtain the necessary permit from the ERA prior to commencing operations. For those which are already up and running, the permitting process must be completed by a set deadline: those with a rated thermal input greater than 5MWth must obtain a permit by 1st January 2024, at the latest, and those with a rated thermal input of less than, or equal to, 5MWth must obtain a permit by 1st January 2029 at the latest.
In order to apply for a permit for a medium combustion plant, operators must pay the applicable fees to ERA, the spokesperson specified. Applications for permits are processed by the Permitting Unit within the Environment Resources Directorate and then presented to the ERA Board. The permits are granted for a definite time period, following which the operator will be required to apply for a renewal of the permit with the Authority within stipulated time frames.
Dr Spiteri emphasised that ERA will ensure compliance with the medium combustion plants regulations and will carry out any necessary inspections as well as monitor the permitted installations. “Collaboration between ERA and all those concerned is imperative in order to obtain the ultimate desired result: reduced emissions to the air and the mitigation of potential risks to human health and the environment,” the Authority’s CEO said.
Papilio machaon / Photo by ERA
The Authority has also started the process to implement legislation - designed in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change - to increase the protection of certain species of flora and fauna. The new regulations will allow the ERA to issue a protection notice on a particular species should its conservation status be deteriorating. The notice will specify any conditions deemed necessary to protect the flora or fauna, laying out any prohibitions on activities which may cause damage or loss, and instituting fines for crimes committed within protected sites.
Perit Michelle Piccinino, Director for the Environment and Resources Unit within the ERA, also explained that the new regulations give ERA further means with which to remove and control invasive alien species. “This law also gives more protection to specific sites and allows for more flexibility in the designation of protected areas. Under the new regulations, a site may be proposed for protection based on ecological, geological and natural features it offers,” she asserted.
To this end, certain species of orchid, butterflies, coral, sharks and others will now be added to the list of protected plants and animals. “These plants and animals have been given protection status as a result of further scientific research resulting in an increase in knowledge which lends towards cementing their conservation status,” Perit Piccinino said. Among these species is a new endemic plant, the Gozo Spider Orchid, which is only to be found in Gozo. “This orchid was recently discovered along with and a number of endangered butterflies, corals of international importance found in Maltese waters,” she concluded.
This article initially appeared on the August edition of The Malta Business Observer.