By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENT Minister Kenred Dorsett yesterday said the government is committed to finding a “private sector solution” for the management of the New Providence landfill as the government continues to oversee the facility in the interim.
His comments came on the sidelines of a press conference to announce the completion of legislative drafts for the permanent recognition of both the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection.
It has been reported previously that the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) had taken over management of the landfill after the company contracted to remediate the site pulled out.
“We have taken over the landfill temporarily,” Mr Dorsett said.
“It is not something that my ministry or the department wants.”
While he insisted that public pronouncements on Renew Bahamas’ withdrawal will be made by his office in the coming weeks, his team is now focused on how best to manage the facility until other arrangements are made.
He added that his office has come across several proposals with regard to the management of the site, however, discussions with a Bahamian consortium has been the most serious and lengthy.
“We have been in discussion with the Bahamian consortium for the better part of about nine months now regarding, in the first instance we focused on green waste and as a result of what has transpired with Renew, they have had discussions with the technical department on whether or not they can provide some long-term systems in terms of the overall management,” he said.
“So, we are reviewing matters that they have put before the (Department of Environmental Health Services) and looking at their proposals, as well as others who have submitted proposals.”
The Southern Shores MP said throughout discussions, his focus has remained on getting long-term remediation at the site in the “shortest possible time,” and as a result, he has instructed his staff to format the best structure where interested parties can make proper presentations to the government, allowing them to conclude this matter in the near future.
Renew Bahamas, contracted in 2014, withdrew its services last October after the company’s Chief Executive Michael Cox reported several incidents of widespread theft,
shootings and tyre slashing, combined with the loss of electrical power in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
At the time, however, Mr Cox hinted that Renew Bahamas’ decision was partially the result of the government’s failure to properly engage with the company over a strategy/plan to resolve the landfill’s problems, adding that Hurricane Matthew had brought the two sides’ strained relationship “to a head.”
Mr Cox also said the company’s request to the Christie administration for post-hurricane support and other assistance had yet to result in a meeting, and suggested this indicated that it wanted Renew Bahamas’ contract “to die.”
Through that controversial contract however, Mr Dorsett said the government saved itself millions, with all overhead expenses being covered by the company in its failed bid.
Mr Dorsett said while the deal didn’t pan out, the government saved a large portion of the resources usually budgeted for its operations at the property in years past.
As it relates to the draft Ministry of Environment Bill 2017, Minister Dorsett noted that the bill, which is open for public consultation over the next two weeks, outlines the functions of the ministry proper, makes provision for an Environmental Administration Fund and an Environmental Advisory Board.
The Environmental Administration Fund will receive deposits from grants bestowed on the Ministry, while the Environmental Advisory Board will be comprised of representatives from the public sector, civil society, institutions of research and education and non-governmental organizations.
Additionally, the Environmental Planning & Protection Bill, 2017 will create a new Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP), which will have the overall responsibility for regulating matters relating to environmental policy, planning and protection, and will be under the control and management of a director general who will have the technical responsibility of the DEPP.
Mr Dorsett also suggested that with the creation of DEEP, the role of the BEST Commission will be integrated into that new office.
He added: “The legislation provides a transparent and clear framework for environmental impact statements, environmental impact assessments, environmental management plans and the issuances of certificates of environmental compliance.
“The legislation provides for appropriate penalties for infractions; penalties up to $120,000 or two years of imprisonment or both.
“For companies that commit environmental offences they may be penalized up to $15million dollars or up to 25 years and imprisonment or both.
“The DEPP will promote environmental awareness to educate the public on environmental matters, climate change and concerns in an effort to promote best practices and protect the environment, social, economic and sustainable development.
“The DEPP will be responsible for notifying the general public of any environmental incident and giving directions as to measures to be taken to protect the environment and ultimately for human health and safety,” he said.
Mr Dorsett added that the DEPP will also focus on providing and reporting information on the state of the environment, while regulations will follow the legislation for advancing standards for industry and practices to protect the environment.