SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – It is no secret that the situation at the landfill has been a health hazard for St. Maarten and its citizens for many years, the National Alliance (NA) Parliamentary Faction Office said on Sunday in a press statement.
“Since June 8th, 2017, former Minister of VROMI, Christophe Emmanuel, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EnviroGreen Energy Inc. in regards to the construction of a waste-to-energy facility. This was done in an effort to attain a much needed environmentally-friendly solution for the landfill situation, which in the end would be beneficial to St. Maarten and all stakeholders involved.
“Based on this agreement, EnviroGreen would produce minimum 9.3 Megawatt of electricity and GEBE would pay $0.26 per Kilowatt to EnviroGreen. EnviroGreen also agreed to finish the project in about 2 years and remove 100,000 tons of waste from the landfill per year. Remediation and mining were also a part of the agreement. However, with the change of Government at the beginning of the year 2018, this initiative was taken off the table by the sitting Minister of VROMI- Miklos Giterson.
“The Committee of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure of Parliament, met with the representatives of EnviroGreen on Thursday, May 16th 2019 to once again discuss future plans for the waste-to-energy initiative. Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel stated in an interview after the meeting that “the Government must have now realized that there is no other solution, so they brought back the initiative to the table”.
“During the meeting, MP Emmanuel expressed that he is happy to see the initiative brought forward again because he still believes that out of all the proposals that were received, EnviroGreen stands out at the top and has the best proposals. However, Emmanuel stated that he is disappointed in the fact that the remediation of the landfill is not a part of the current agreement. This came after finding out during EnviroGreen’s presentation that the new agreement would entail only waste removal for $0.18 instead of $0.26 for waste removal and remediation, as was agreed upon in the 2017 MOU.
“The MP explained that GEBE produces electricity for about $0.14, but with the addition of the fuel clause, it goes up to about $0.30. He went on by saying that the $0.26 that was agreed upon in the 2017 MOU, would then still be cheaper and would also include remediation of the landfill, which has been his main sticking point as that is very critical.
“Member of Parliament Egbert Doran stated that when looking at the commitments of EnviroGreen to the project, he believes that MP Emmanuel, in his former capacity as Minister of VROMI, was ‘on to something’. Commitments like ‘provide $70 million dollars to fully finance the project, waste management, divert 120,000+ tons per year of waste from the landfill, energy production etc.’, are very beneficial to St. Maarten according to MP Doran.
“The MP questioned “What more do we need?” and “How can we as a Parliament go against anything that is beneficial to the people of St. Maarten?”. During the meeting MP Doran read a letter from the Minister of VROMI which he described as basically stating that the change in government is what caused the agreement with EnviroGreen to be terminated. He considered this simply ‘wasting time’. Doran went on to read a Draft Motion of December 16th, 2016 that called on Government to prioritize declaring a solid waste disposal management and the establishing of a solid waste management authority of both public and private representation to guide the processes necessary to achieve this.
“The motion was passed unanimously by 14 Members of Parliament about two and a half years ago. Doran stated that MP Emmanuel, who was one of the Members of Parliament to vote for this motion, later went on to become a Minister and sought solutions for the problem which he found to be the project of EnviroGreen. However, this initiative was shut down because of politics according to MP Doran. Doran stated that if Parliament is serious about finding a solution for the people of St. Maarten and making it a reality, they should ‘pull up their socks’ and get things done instead of immaturely playing politics.
“Member of Parliament Ardwell Irion disagreed when another Member of Parliament of the coalition mentioned that it isn’t a good idea to depend on French St. Maarten or other neighboring islands to produce the necessary waste to keep the waste-to-energy plant afloat. MP Irion stated that he believes that if it makes sense financially, it is highly likely that the neighboring islands will agree to ship their waste to the island in order for the plant to produce energy.
“Irion stated that he believes that this should be looked into immediately, before the islands make agreements elsewhere, as many other islands have waste issues and may be also looking into similar solutions.
Besides that, Member of Parliament of the coalition, no other MP’s could find any fault with EnviroGreen’s waste-to-energy presentation. This gives even more credence to the NA faction’s sentiments that the deal was a good one to begin with.
“According to Member of Parliament Silveria Jacobs, it is very disheartening that Government “dragged their feet” on this initiative as it has been in the pipeline for almost two years and could’ve been (almost) a reality today. MP Jacobs stated that the funds that would have been made available through this initiative, could have gone towards the subsidizing of our schools or many other things that are of utmost importance in society right now.
“Jacobs questioned the reality of the remediation of the landfill being taken out of the agreement in exchange for the new Power Purchase Agreement of 18 cents per kwh. “I am flabbergasted that Government could remove such and rely on the World Bank to finance the remediation of the dump and continue to pay for Dump Management even after the waste-to-energy plant is being constructed. It is unbelievable that a government supposedly intent on fixing the waste challenges, smoking and burning dump and other negative actions surrounding it, while under serious financial challenges would choose to leave out an option that would be most cost effective for St. Maarten and which would have been nearing completion by now and seeing the start of the remediation of the garbage hills disrupting the lives of St. Maarten people”.
“The Members of Parliament of the National Alliance want answers from the Minister of VROMI to justify this choice by government and wants to know what exactly the World Bank executed project will entail. The faction would also like to know what it will cost St. Maarten now and in the long run on a yearly basis to maintain the dumpsite once the WTE is established.
“Ultimately, the faction is eager to see progress in this area as it has been plaguing society for far too long and is only getting worse every day. They call on the Government, especially the Minister of VROMI to prioritize this situation so that the people of St. Maarten can get some much-needed relief,” the NA Parliamentary Faction Office press release concludes.