The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

ERA Board approves EIA for construction of Malta-Italy gas pipeline

Friday, 23 July 2021, 13:53 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Environment and Resources Authority has approved the Environmental Impact Assessment for the construction of a Malta-Sicily gas pipeline.

The authority held a public meeting on the proposal, which consists of the construction of a new access road, land reclamation for a terminal station at the Delimara Power Station, onshore microtunneling across the Delimara Peninsula and the laying of an offshore pipeline to Gela in Sicily.

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In 2017, ERA had requested an Environmental Impact Assessment in view of the project’s location within the three Natura 2000 sites.

“Given the project’s transboundary nature, consultation for the purposes of the Convention on the Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and its First and Second Amendments were also carried out with Italy.”

The EIA Report was submitted to ERA on 28 February 2020 and assessed. ERA said its assessment takes into account the conclusions of the EIA Report, as well as the comments received from the public concerned following a 30-day public consultation.

The main points of concern relate to the impacts on the natural cliffs due to rock cutting from the proposed construction of the new access road, coastal land uptake mainly due to the land reclamation component, visual amenity in relation to the construction of the terminal facility and on geology due to trenching and dredging works.

In terms of ecology, the assessment identified impacts on benthic species due to excavation and trenching and installation of pipeline support structures and cable crossing structures; and impacts on terrestrial protected shrub species from interventions on the cliff face.

In relation to avifauna, the assessment identifies illumination impacts from working vessels and the terminal facility.

The impact significance of each environmental parameter depends largely on the thorough implementation of pre-emptive safeguards, construction and operational mitigation measures, namely the use of silt curtain and suction dredger, air bubble screens, monitoring during construction (weathering rates in tunnel; rock stability; injured bird species and artefacts) oil spill prevention and response plans; and transplanting and monitoring of benthic assemblages.

In light of the findings of the assessment and overall considerations, ERA did not object to the proposal as long as the various mitigation measures proposed in the EIA and AA Reports, are duly incorporated into the mainstream development consent mechanism and mitigated by means of conditions and specifications (e.g. approved documents) in the development permit.

The Final Assessment was referred to the ERA Board for a decision in public in line with the EIA Regulations. The decision taken by the ERA Board on 23 July was that the Final Assessment put forward was being agreed to and a vote in favour was taken.

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