GONHS: Concerns Over Go-Ahead of Power Station

Reacting to the Development and Planning Commission's (DPC) decision to give the construction of a fossil fuel power station in Gibraltar environmental clearance, our sister charity expressed concerns and called for an energy-rethink. Below you will find the whole press release:

GONHS' Press Release In Full Length

GONHS (The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History) has expressed regret at the Development and Planning Commission’s (DPC) decision to grant the proposed power station an EIA certificate.

GONHS feels that its comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) have not been properly addressed and that too many matters to do with the negative impact on wildlife, which the EIA itself acknowledges, are left in the air. While overall the original EIA appears thorough, it fails on certain key aspects. Not enough regard is given either to the massive impact the power station will have on the scenic nature of the south of Gibraltar, nor on measures that will compensate for, or mitigate the many ecological and landscape issues that will arise. This includes the potential decrease of the Barbary Partridge population at a time when GONHS observers are noticing a worrying decline in numbers. An independent assessment of the EIA, while scoring it highly overall, coincides with the GONHS points on landscape and ecology.

Despite negative impacts having been forecast by both the EIA and independent organisations, the DPC has decided to grant the EIA certificate before any mitigation or compensatory measures have been formally proposed.

Regardless of the EIA, GONHS also continues to insist that the whole question of power generation for Gibraltar requires more vision GONHS welcomes the fact that the new power station will mean an end to pollution in areas where there are power stations now. However, hedging Gibraltar’s bets on a power station that will burn fossil fuel will trap Gibraltar in the past when we have had the ideal opportunity to become forward looking leaders in energy production. A new power station should at best have been viewed as an interim measure whilst greener technology that is suitable for Gibraltar, such as renewable hydropower, develops. Rather, it is being viewed as a permanent measure, with higher rates of consumption of fossil fuel forecast for the future.

Not enough importance has been given to the need to reduce carbon emissions and to take real steps to reduce energy consumption in Gibraltar. There is a need for aggressive initiatives to reduce public consumption, and to give incentives to encourage private reduction in use of energy.

It is vitally important also that during construction and future operation, top priority be given to protecting the ecology of the area. It is now imperative – and required by European law – to provide a wide range of mitigation and compensation measures to reduce the impact, in as much as that will be possible. GONHS is aware that steps are being taken by Government to achieve this, but as an organisation has not been involved in the consultation process.

GONHS acknowledges having been able to put its points across to the Government, which it has not succeeded in convincing, and accepts that its officials for the most part feel that the current proposals are the best way forward. But it has to be assumed that once the power station is built it will be here for decades, with the environmental deterioration of the South District continuing for generations. And generations will regret the decision. Gibraltar is sealing its options and will be anchored firmly in the past at a time when fuel costs will spiral and stocks run out.

GONHS therefore makes a new appeal to Government to reconsider its plans and tackle the energy problem in an entirely new and different way.
One of the most serious concerns that GONHS has regarding this decision, however, is in fact a more general one about planning in Gibraltar. This is that there is no quantitative mechanism in place with which the DPC assesses EIAs. There appear to be no fixed criteria that EIAs have to meet, no boxes to tick. Therefore, acceptance or rejection of an EIA is left entirely at individual DPC members' discretion, regardless of the quality of the EIA or the impacts the proposed developments are likely to have on the environment. The DPC's meetings are still not public nor its minutes published, despite manifesto commitments by Government to the contrary.